Joint Press Conference by Co-chairs, Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi, International Commission for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament 


30 September 2009, Cairo, Egypt

MODERATOR (Arabic language)
(Dr Gamal Abdel Gawad Solton, Director, Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies)

The ICNND has conducted a number of meetings to canvass the issue of nuclear non-proliferation and this time Cairo was chosen for the venue for this important meeting. All the credit goes to the Commissioners and to Ms Kawaguchi the former Foreign Minister of Japan and Mr Gareth Evans the former Foreign Minister of Australia, Co-chairs of this Commission - who have played an important role in facilitating very deep and fruitful discussions here. I release the floor now to you to address the press.

YORIKO KAWAGUCHI (English language)
Thank you Dr Soltan. Before I talk about today's meeting let me tell you about who we are.
While we are supported by both the governments of Australia and Japan we are an independent group. We are working to eliminate nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation; and to allow greater access to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We are looking immediately at the NPT Review conference next May and will be issuing our report hopefully by end of this year or if not by early next year. We hope to influence governments to work to make the NPT Review Conference next year a success.
We have had three meetings so far, one in Sydney; the second in Washington; and the third in Moscow. We will be having our last and fourth meeting in Hiroshima in October – starting on 16th. We also have had three regional meetings, the first in South America, the second in North East Asia, the third one here, in the Middle East - and the fourth one right after this - the last regional meeting - in New Delhi for South Asia.
The reason that we have regional meetings is that security issues, including nuclear issues should be discussed from the perspective of regions, and we will need to incorporate regional views into our report. So that is the reason we are here.
We have had two days of discussions. We divided the two days into three parts: nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses. We have had very good discussions. One important aspect of the of this meeting is that we had – thanks to the Al-Ahram Centre – participants from a large number of countries in the region. We had representatives from Iran, Israel and Egypt. I think you have a list of the people, so I am not going to list them all. This in itself is very important. Views from a variety of countries have been expressed. Participants were very candid in expressing their views. We had a very good deep discussion on a number of issues – in fact on all the issues that should be discussed in a meeting like this. Very briefly: on disarmament, in a session in which I was not able to participate, but my understanding was that views were expressed on recent international initiatives including the UN speech of President Obama. Also at the same time some questions were raised about the seriousness of the commitment of the nuclear-armed countries to disarm. On non-proliferation issues there was a discussion on the universalisation of the NPT, on the CTBT and FMCT and also on the concern of proliferation especially with respect to one of the countries in the region. On peaceful uses of nuclear energy, our discussions centered on multilateral or multinational approaches to the fuel cycle, the issue of security of supply of the fuels, and also the safety of the nuclear facilities, especially the need not to attack nuclear facilities in the region. The meeting also considered measures for confidence building. A large part of our discussion was spent on the scope for WMD free zones in the region. While many people indicated the importance of having such a zone in this region, views differed as to how to start this negotiation - many proposals were floated as to how to start this process.

GARETH EVANS (English language)
This was a very substantial meeting. People were very frank, very direct, very open, very forthright. I don't think there was a single issue of difficulty, complexity, sensitivity that we didn't really work over very thoroughly. People were not just making set piece grand speeches as are so often the case at international conferences. People were wrestling with the issues trying to see where there might be some common ground to move things forward. So certainly the Commission has come away with a very strong set of understandings, though not necessarily a lot of clear cut recommendations yet. We have got to talk about all that among ourselves. But some very good understanding of what the regional dynamics are. So I think I will leave it at that and let’s just be as responsive as we can be to your questions.

Could you tell something about the conclusions of the two days of meetings - or any recommendations that have come from it? Of course I know that you don't have the power or authority to press any country to stop their nuclear weapons, but Israel has created a horrible situation in the Middle East with their nuclear weapons. So, what does it mean…Israel has been defended by Shlomo Ben-Ami? And what kind of discussion have you had with him.

GARETH EVANS (English language)
Well you don't have a list of recommendations coming out of the meeting because it was not that kind of meeting. We are here to discuss, to listen to get an understanding of the issues and to go away and write a report in which you will see our recommendations. And they will be very clear I can tell you on many of these issues. As far as Israel is concerned, the Commission's view is that we just treat Israel as a nuclear-armed state notwithstanding they adopt this policy of neither confirming nor denying and being opaque about it. I know that's not a very popular position in Egypt because there is a general degree of willingness on the part of the Arab countries to go along with that so as to avoid the necessity for confronting that reality. What we want to say is that every one of these states - India, Pakistan, Israel - outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty that do clearly have very substantial nuclear weapon stocks have to be participants in the process. First of all, of ensuring there is no further proliferation and they have to be helpful participants in that, and secondly, they have to be participants in the disarmament process too. And it is no good just waiting around and saying that these guys have got to join the NPT: we all know that they are not going to be willing to join the NPT as non-weapon states and we all know that the members of the NPT are not going to be willing to have them as weapon states. So we are in a bit of a deadlock on this issue. So we are trying to find ways through that by trying to articulate a program for short, the medium, the long term – ways in which these countries can be brought into the process. So I think you will find the Commission report at the end of the day is quite clear on a lot of these issues. And what we were doing in the meeting was just exploring the possibilities. I mean everybody has formal positions but there is also a little bit of room for finding ways forward, including as my Co-chair said on the issue of the nuclear-weapons free zone, which we do need to find a way of moving forward – not to reach a final conclusion and that's a long way away - but moving forward on it, not just getting stuck in this little alley way where we have been since 1995 on that issue. So that's as much that we can really say about the detail - I am just trying to convey a sense of the atmospherics.

QUESTION (Al-Jazeera English)
My question is about your views. With Israel and Iran present at your meeting and tomorrow Iran's nuclear program will be discussed in Geneva amid expectations of further sanctions, can you tell us how was the mood overall inside when it comes to comparing the cases of Israel, India, Pakistan as non NPT signatories, to Iran.

YORIKO KAWAGUCHI (English language)
Concern was raised about the Iranian issue in the meeting. Our position is that Iran will have to follow all of the requirements of the IAEA, will have to follow all the resolutions of the UN Security Council, will have to make things transparent - that is the Commission's position and it was expressed in the meeting. Many participants talked about many aspects of the non-proliferation issue. I think there was a general sense that this is a very big issue for the region which needs to be clarified and continued to be discussed.

QUESTION (English language)
Just to understand whether the comparison and the contrast between the Iranian situation and the Israeli situations are the same, or two different situations.

GARETH EVANS (English language)
Of course they are different situations because Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons. Iran is in non-compliance with parts of the NPT as we all know, that is what the Board of Governors have said and basically what the Security Council is saying and Iran has got some serious questions to answer if it is going to recover any kind of confidence in the international community. But Iran is still not a case of a proliferator. Iran is a case of a country that has been exercising to the full – really and truly – its rights under the NPT to acquire fissile material making capability and in that process, because it has been less than transparent, has generated a lot of concern a lot of anxiety in the region and outside the region as to what its intentions are. The Commission strongly feels that this is a problem to be addressed by negotiation and by measures short of military confrontation – that would be disastrous for the region and for the world. And I think some of us at least – and we in the Commission are still debating this – are confident that at the end of the day it is going to be a long drawn out process, but at the end of the day it ought to be possible to reach a negotiated accommodation - maybe not one that involves Iran going back to zero in terms of its enrichment capability, but certainly drawing the line short of acquiring actual weapons and participating in a process of monitoring and verification that will give the rest of the world confidence that is not crossing that red line. Those are the elements I think most people now see as possible elements of a resolution. Iran stated its position very very clearly, very very strongly in the course of our meeting over the last two days, making clear the position of its spokespersons – and we had Ambassador Soltanieh here from Vienna a very senior Iranian representative - making very clear in his words that Iran had no aggressive intentions, no desire whatsoever to acquire weapons. Well that remains to be seen, but it does give us a foundation to argue about this. With India, Pakistan, Israel we have got a different kind of problem. We have got states with weapons and we have got to get them out of the weapons business entirely. With Iran it's a non-proliferation issue – it's stopping the slide, and I think we all understand that difference. They are still two very big problems for the region, but they are different kinds of problems.

YORIKO KAWAGUCHI (English language)
I would just like to add that in the meeting there was no explicit discussion comparing the two country's situations. These were treated separately.

QUESTION ( Japan [inaudible] newspaper) (English language)
My question is - is there any proposals from participants as to ways to get countries like Israel, India, Pakistan to take part in the NPT as non-weapon states. Is there any proposal?

YORIKO KAWAGUCHI (English language)
Yes, views were expressed that they had to be party to the NPT. But there was no explicit proposal for how we go about doing this. But strong views were expressed that they have to be part of the NPT.

GARETH EVANS (English language)
I think in the context of the weapons free zone in the Middle East here there is a clear understanding that the only way that that can be finally brought to realization is if Israel does join the NPT as a non-weapon state and also signs up to fissile material cut-off and all the rest of the things that go to make up that set of inter-locking obligations. That is not going to happen any time soon, but I think we were left with a little bit of a sense of encouragement that maybe in the next year or so, and coming out of the NPT Review Conference, we can see some forward movement on this. Perhaps there could be some kind of regional meeting maybe under UN auspices where the substantive issues that would be involved in a weapons free zone can be aired and where the various prerequisites for that coming into force could be discussed - where the experience of other weapon free zones could be taken into account and the issue could be taken forward. That might not get us that far, but it takes us a lot further than where we have been since 1995. And I was left, and I think that most participants around the table were left, with just a little bit of optimism that maybe, just maybe, we could find agreement in that respect: but clearly if there is to be an entry into force agreement with everybody signing up to what is involved in a nuclear weapons free zone, no possession etc, no transport, no storing, then we are looking at a very different universe than the one we have here at the moment. And it is clearly going to be some distance before that is achieved. But if it is achieved then the NPT issue gets very quickly resolved because that will no longer be a problem.

MODERATOR (Arabic language)
So that ends this program. The Al-Ahram Centre would like to thank Ms Kawaguchi and Mr Gareth Evans for the great efforts they have made and for the opportunity given to the people of the region to discuss these responsible issues.

FURTHER QUESTION (Arabic language)
(INAUDIBLE) If Israel signs the treaty, does it mean they have to give up all their nuclear weapons.

GARETH EVANS (English language)
If you are going to have a nuclear weapons free zone, it means just that – as it does in any other zone around the world. It means none of the members that are signing up to that regional treaty retain any weapons at all or have anybody else's weapons there and so that would have to be part of the deal and that is why it is so tough. But the important thing that it is a step by step process.

YORIKO KAWAGUCHI (English language)
And it is important that Israel becomes a member of the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon country.

QUESTION (English language)
What was the position of the Israeli representative. You mentioned something about the Iranian representative, but what about the Israeli representative. What did he say.

GARETH EVANS (English language)
Well she is going to have to speak for herself because it is a closed meeting and it is not a matter of quoting everybody. But basically we heard fairly familiar Israeli government positions and we know what they are – they agree in principle to a nuclear-weapons free zone, or a weapons of mass destruction free zone – there has been a Cabinet decision on that going all the way back to the early 90s. But what they are saying is that peace has to be the precondition and a sustainable peace in which they can have some confidence. That gets us into a little bit of a problem because if you are making a weapons free zone conditional on peace and you are perhaps not being all that helpful in accelerating the peace process. It's a little bit of a circular process. So what we are trying to do is to break out of that and not make peace a precondition for even talking about a weapons of mass destruction free zone. I think this has been an Egyptian and an Arab position and the Commission has some sympathy with that. We think these things ought to proceed in parallel. But we have to be realistic about it, and we have to acknowledge the realities of the situations. Nobody is going to sign up to such a zone anytime soon, nobody is going to enter the NPT as a non-weapon state anytime soon. But if we can just quieten the atmosphere down, getting everybody understanding what the issues are, getting some serious discussion of the various preconditions and conditions that would have to be satisfied - what the actual text might look like - that would be an advance and in itself a way of helping along the peace process that is so necessary. So I am not putting words – and I don't think either of us would want to put words in the Israeli representative's mouth, but it was not an unhelpful contribution. It was an interesting discussion and all the issues were out there. And just a final word - someone who has been sitting in on many many conferences and 2nd track meetings over the last 10-20 years, said to me just after the meeting a few minutes ago, that this discussion over the last two days was the best she had heard on this set of issues on how to move out of the impasse. So I think it has been a very useful meeting and I want to thank again Dr Soltan of Al-Ahram for all the work that you and Dr Kadry and all your colleagues and others did to bring this meeting together.

Thank you.


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