Civil G8 2006

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A. Antonov. Nuclear weapons non-proliferation in G8 policy

A. I. Antonov, director, Department for Issues of Security and Disarmament, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Question: The G8 documents on non-proliferation ratified at Sea Island (2004) and Gleneagles (2005), which touch on use of sensitive nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes, are sometimes seen by developing countries as a deliberate attempt to debar them from achieving the fruits of civilisation. How can we avoid causing offence?

A. I. Antonov: We should create political and economic conditions that remove the stimulus for non-nuclear countries to acquire sensitive nuclear technologies. This means developing a multilateral approach to the nuclear fuel cycle, guaranteeing access to these services for non-nuclear countries that disavow creation of their own full nuclear fuel cycles. But it is especially important to prevent terrorists from getting hold of weapons of mass destruction.

Question: This is the idea called for by UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which was adopted in April 2004. How is it being fulfilled?

A. I. Antonov: Our priority is to ensure complete fulfillment of all its clauses by all countries. For this purpose the 1540 Committee was created. It currently analyzes national reports provided by 124 countries, and additional information supplied by 40 states. Much remains to be done, and therefore we support extension by the Security Council of the mandate of the 1540 Committee.

Question: Is the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) still relevant? The 2005 conference on it failed to adopt a consensus-based summary document, while the diplomatic incidents involving North Korea and Iran are rather a negative advertisement for it.

A. I. Antonov: The NPT is an invaluable element of international security and stability. The follow-up conference confirmed this, even though it failed to formulate practical recommendations for strengthening the NPT. However, it reaffirmed the main point -- that new challenges and threats to the non-proliferation regime can and must be dealt with based on the NPT.

Resolving the situation regarding the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes remains on the G8's agenda. We will continue to search for new approaches to resolution of these problems through political and diplomatic methods. We will involve the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to find a mutually acceptable solution on Iran, allowing Tehran to develop nuclear power whilst ensuring that its nuclear programme remains purely peaceful in nature. Solution of the North Korean nuclear problem will involve the country's re-accession to the NPT, resumption of IAEA inspections, bringing North Korea out of international isolation, and provision of large-scale economic assistance. An effective forum for creating the necessary mechanism is the six-party talks [between China, the United States, Russia, Japan, North Korea and South Korea - Ed.].

Question: The IAEA Committee on Safeguards and Verification was set up by the organisation's board of governors at the initiative of the Sea Island summit. What is the Committee doing now?

A. I. Antonov: We are currently outlining a range of issues for it, as it must not duplicate existing IAEA verification structures. It could assist in fulfillment of Resolution 1540, improvement of the safeguards mechanism, and standardisation of application of the Additional Protocol to the IAEA Agreement on Safeguards. This effective instrument for ensuring transparency of national nuclear programmes currently operates in 71 countries. In 2005 the G8 called on non-member states to speed up the process of ascension. Standardisation of the Additional Protocol will continue this year.

Question: Has control over nuclear exports been strengthened?

A. I. Antonov: At the G8's initiative, the Nuclear Suppliers Group is reinforcing control over transference of sensitive nuclear technologies [uranium enrichment and chemical processing of nuclear fuel waste - Ed.] and developing criteria for their delivery. Sensitive nuclear technologies can of course be used to create nuclear weapons. The G8 will continue working on this issue. Whilst the rules on transference of sensitive nuclear technologies are still being coordinated in the multilateral format, the G8 is pursuing a "strategy of prudence", adopted at Sea Island and reaffirmed at Gleneagles. This means that G8 member states will not initiate new programmes involving transfer of sensitive nuclear technologies to countries that do not possess them.

Question: What about the principle of guaranteed access to the "peaceful atom" for non-nuclear countries that have pledged not to create nuclear fuel cycles?

A. I. Antonov: A year ago, the IAEA published a report by its Expert Group for Multilateral Approaches, which stipulated a mechanism for helping countries with "moderate" energy requirements develop a nuclear power without an expensive full nuclear fuel cycle. It is now working on the practical aspects of this concept. In view of the energy focus of Russia's G8 presidency, we will continue this work within the Forum framework.

Q: What about India, which is not an NPT signatory and therefore is denied access to peaceful nuclear technologies?

A: We cannot ignore India's energy requirements. It is a rapidly developing country with a good non-proliferation record. We should probably make an exception to the rules in this case, but without establishing any new norms that might erode the non-proliferation regime.

Q: What do we plan to do within the G8 to combat biological threats?

A: Fighting infectious diseases is a priority of our G8 presidency. The non-proliferation agenda includes plans for a a joint inventory of international forums and mechanisms for efforts to ensure biological security. We are preparing a follow-up conference for this year on the Convention on Prohibition of Biological Weapons.

Unofficial translation from Russian

Expert opinion

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