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France and UK ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

On 6 April, France, together with the United Kingdom, deposited its instruments of ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) with the United Nations Secretary-General.

France and the UK will be among the first thirteen States to ratify this treaty. They are the first two nuclear weapons States to do so. The two European nuclear powers call on all States which have not yet done so to become parties to the treaty.

1. Provisions of the treaty

- The CTBT prohibits, as France had proposed on 10 August 1995, all nuclear tests, regardless of the level and circumstances in which they might be held (the zero option). It permits so-called simulation programmes in laboratories.

- It includes an effective verification mechanism. In particular, the international monitoring network, comprising 321 stations with a headquarters in Vienna (seat of the treaty's organization), is already being set up.

2. Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament

- The signing of the CTBT on 24 September 1996 met one of the objectives adopted by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review and Extension Conference in New York in May 1995. The test ban is intended, in particular, to stop States which do not possess nuclear weapons from becoming able to obtain them.

- The cessation of nuclear testing also brings to an end the development of new, more advanced types of weapons and so sets the seal on the end of the arms race (which France has always condemned).

3. Entry into force clause

- The treaty can enter into force only when it has been ratified by forty-four named States, including the five recognized nuclear powers (France, United Kingdom, Russia, United States and China) and three so-called threshold States (India, Pakistan and Israel).

- This clause is logical: the CTBT must, of course, include the recognized nuclear powers and the possibility of implementing it without the participation of the threshold States (which are nuclear capable, but have not acceded to the NPT) would have been at odds with the objective of non-proliferation.

4. Why ratify?

- Even though it is not coming into force for the time being, the CTBT is a deciding factor in ensuring international security: its signature since September 1996 by nearly 150 States (including the five nuclear powers) constitutes a major political commitment to a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests. In fact, the impact of this political commitment will also be strengthened at the technical level by the establishment of an international monitoring network in the next few months or years (regardless of whether or not the treaty comes into force.

- There is a need to consolidate this crucial step forward in the international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament effort: the ratification of the treaty by the maximum number of States is a way of supporting the CTBT, of persuading the other nuclear and threshold States to sign it and in the end of hastening its entry into force.

5. 1999 conference

- The treaty allows, from 1999 onwards, those States which have ratified it to convene a conference for the purpose of taking measures compatible with international law to speed up the ratification process and thus facilitate the Treaty's entry into force in the not too distant future.

- France is willing to participate in such a conference, which will not have the power to decide the treaty's advance implementation or, of course, to take measures in breach of the sovereignty of the States which have not ratified it.

6 - France and the nuclear tests

- France played an important role in the negotiation of the CTBT, particularly by supporting the zero option. It has dismantled its Pacific nuclear test centre and signed the Rarotonga Treaty establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific.

- the French nuclear tests were carried out in environmentally very safe conditions. We also conducted an unparalleled policy of transparency on this subject.

The advisory committee of independent experts, instructed, at France's request, by the Director-General of the IAEA to carry out a new assessment of the radiological situation of the Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls, will be publishing its report in a few weeks' time./.