Arms Control and Disarmament Programme

On the 23 April 2010, and in the run up to 2010 NPT Review Conference, VERTIC released its briefing paper ‘Towards a verified nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East’. The brief was co-authored by VERTIC’s researcher Hassan Elbahtimy and Sameh Aboul-Enein, an Egyptian scholar and diplomat. The paper discussed the need for a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East, and examined its relevance for the 2010 NPT review conference. The paper is the tenth in the VERTIC Brief series. It recieved instant attention in the community, and the few hard copies that were printed were scooped up within minutes.

In May, Andreas Persbo and Hassan ElBahtimy contributed two different sections to ‘Perspectives for Progress: the 2010 NPT Review Conference and Beyond’, a briefing book project led by the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. VERTIC’s contribution included a section on ‘The case for a stronger safeguards regime’ by Andreas Persbo and another on ‘Verifying nuclear warhead dismantlement’ by Hassan ElBahtimy.

The book includes commentary by Mohamed Shaker, Gen. Sir Hugh Beach (a VERTIC trustee), Sverre Lodgaard, Jayantha Dhanapala and Rebecca Johnson. During the same month, Andreas Persbo also contributed a chapter in UNIDIR’s publication: ‘A Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty: Understanding the Critical Issues’. The book features contributions from authors such as the International Panel on Fissile Materials, Anette Shaper, Harold A. Feiveson, Bruno Pellaud and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Also in May, VERTIC closely followed the proceedings of the 2010 NPT Review Conference in New York through a delegation including Andreas Persbo and Hassan Elbahtimy. During the conference, VERTIC took part in the special event organized to launch the NPT Working Paper ‘The United Kingdom-Norway Initiative: Research into the Verification of Nuclear Warhead Dismantlement’. In the event, Mr Persbo delivered VERTIC’s statement on its participation as an independent observer in Initiative, while also looking ahead to the forthcoming publication of VERTIC’s report on the project—the release of which is expected by the end of this September. The highly anticipated seminar was exceptionally well attended (about 120 delegates in total). In general, delegates were supportive of the initiative and called for its continuation in the upcoming review cycle.

Hassan Elbahtimy continued to cover the end game of the conference, with a view of producing a restricted report on its outcome. Andreas Persbo and Ole Reistad of the Norwegian Radiological Protection Authority are scheduled to write an article for the December issue of the OECD/NEA Nuclear Law Bulletin. Norway played an instrumental role in wrapping up the conference, and some of those events will be mused upon in the article.

Between 2-5 June, VERTIC’s nuclear arms control researcher David Cliff travelled to Islamabad, Pakistan, to participate in a roundtable discussion on Indo-Pakistani cooperation and security issues. The event—which brought together prominent current and former policy-makers, diplomats, military officials, intelligence experts and national media analysts—was organised by the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, with VERTIC attending in the capacity of co-funder. It represents the first in a planned series of meetings of a new bilateral Indo-Pakistani Commission established to serve as a forum for the discussion of ways to promote greater security for both countries through increased cooperation in areas such as terrorism, water, trade, people-to-people contact, arms control, Kashmir and Afghanistan. VERTIC provided funds for the meeting in support of its own project on confidence building measures in South Asia. This project, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will now be concluded.

On 9 June, Andreas Persbo presented at the annual general meeting of the Swedish Branch of the International Law Association. He was asked to offer thoughts on whether the 2010 NPT Review Conference could be seen as a breakthrough in the disarmament question. Another presenter on the panel was Christer Ahlstrom, director of disarmament and international security at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Also present at the meeting was Hans Blix, who delivered a in-depth expose on the developent of nuclear safeguards during his tenure as IAEA director-general. VERTIC is grateful to Ove Bring, and the Swedish branch, for their kind invitation.

Finally, on 29 June 2010, Andreas Persbo delivered a presentation on the role of technology and science for nuclear disarmament to about 70 conference participants at Wilton Park’s Conference ‘Nuclear Salience in Decline?’.

The nuclear programme is now focussing on final preparations for the release of the first draft of the Report of the Independent Observer, a Carnegie Corporation of New York funded study into practical exercises on warhead verification. The first, restricted, draft will be released to a select circle of reviewers on 9 July 2010.