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Alistair Burt, Minister for Counter-proliferation delivers keynote address


By dxw

Closing our four day round table discussion, UK Minister for Counter-proliferation, Alistair Burt, emphasised the importance of states working together to achieve goals relating to the three pillars of the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The four day meeting provided the forum for participants from twenty-seven states to engage in frank and rich discussions on the urgent issues and challenges faced by the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Participants included officials, academics, and members of civil society groups from nuclear weapon states (NWS) and non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS). Issues relating to the three pillars of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)–non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy–were addressed.

This round table meeting included sessions on the upcoming events of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, the 2012 NPT Prep Com starting off the 2015 NPT review process, and the conference on a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East.

Looking further ahead, the discussion panels discussed the ambitious and potentially far-reaching 2010 NPT RevCon Action Plan implementation; the future path of nuclear reductions – bilateral and multilateral; efforts to make progress on the FMCT; the Iranian nuclear challenge evolves; and the future of nuclear energy after Fukushima begins to take shape. The conference convened to facilitate dialogue for addressing these challenges.

Rose Gottemoeller, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, addressed the conference on the specific issue of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). In her thorough address, Undersecretary Gottemoeller confirmed the commitment by the United States to commencing negotiations on a FMCT in the Conference on Disarmament (CD).

The meeting concluded with a keynote address given by the UK’s Minister for Counter-proliferation, Alistair Burt, succinctly providing an overview of the progress achieved since the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

Alistair Burt and Richard Burge

The close P5 cooperation was heralded as positive progress supporting the disarmament pillar, citing the June Paris meeting on the P5-process as a recent example. The joint UK/Norway initiative on the verification of dismantlement of nuclear weapons is an innovative exercise contributing to a great understanding of the practical issues involved in efforts towards the global disarmament goals. The Minister highlighted the December London workshop of the UK/Norway initiative which was attended by twelve NNWS. Echoing the US position presented by Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller earlier in the week, the Minister reaffirmed that the UK remains supportive of a FMCT and maintained that the CD is the forum for its negotiation. Minister Burt noted that 2012 will be a defining year for the CD. The Indonesian ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was welcomed by the Minister.

In terms of the non-proliferation pillar of the NPT, the Minister noted that progress has been achieved in a broad international commitment to address the concerns with the Iranian nuclear activities. Following the November International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, the UK government will continue to fully support the agency’s efforts to verify compliance with safeguards commitments. Minister Burt expressed his confidence in a successful conference on establishing a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMDFZ), scheduled for 2012. The appointment of the conference facilitator, Undersecretary Jaakko Laajava, was noted as a huge and positive step forward. The Minister also emphasized the key role of nuclear power and noted that nuclear safety was brought to the fore following the Fukushima accident.

Inga Marie Nyhamar (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo), Ambassador Laajava (Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Finland) & Dr Bernd Kubbig (Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF)
Inga Marie Nyhamar (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo), Ambassador Laajava (Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Finland) & Dr Bernd Kubbig (Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF)

The importance of international dialogue on the issues relating to the three pillars of the NPT was stressed by Minister Burt. The 2015 NPT review cycle will provide the opportunity to bridge perceived divides within the non-proliferation regime and seek to define common ground. The upcoming March 2012 Wilton Park conference on the important role of African states in the NPT review process was mentioned by the Minister as one forum for dialogue in the lead-up to the 2012 NPT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom). The Minister’s address aptly highlighted the various issues which the preceding four days of discussions had addressed, thus confirming the urgency of these issues and the UK government’s commitment to the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Further information

Conference on Challenges of the nuclear non-proliferation regime