OPANAL & 'Tlatelolco II'

by Jim Wurst


Lima, Peru, was the venue for the XVI General Conference of OPANAL (Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America) and the International Seminar on Disarmament and Security in Latin America, held November 30 -December 3, 1999. OPANAL monitors compliance with the Treaty of Tlatelolco, the nuclear-weapons-free zone (NWFZ) treaty for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The parties to the Treaty are interested in the idea of expanding Tlatelolco in two ways: creating more NWFZs and using the Tlatelolco model for other arms control efforts in Latin America.

The participants included about half of the parties to the Treaty, the five nuclear-weapon states, Canada, UN Under Secretary-General for Disarmament Jayantha Dhanapala, the IAEA, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

A significant feature of this conference was that NGOs were present. Meetings of such organizations are usually closed to NGOs; this is the first time OPANAL granted NGOs observer status. In keeping with the idea of greater openness, the General Conference issued its first public declaration. The Lima Declaration made a specific reference to the New Agenda Coalition resolution as a "preoccupation of the international community" and called for a commitment for "joint efforts to create new NWFZs in other regions of the planet." An important follow-up to this conference is the likelihood of an international conference of NWFZs in 2000 or 2001 with the goal of strengthening existing zones and creating new ones.

Among the NGOs present were Greenpeace, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Lawyers Alliance for World Security, IALANA (represented by Carlos Vargas) and LCNP (represented by Jim Wurst). The NGOs were invited to make one joint five minute presentation. Delivered by Vargas, the statement thanked the Conference for their openness and listed nuclear disarmament priorities relevant to such a gathering: a strengthened NPT, strengthened and expanded NWFZs, promotion of a Southern Hemisphere NWFZ, greater transparency in verification and monitoring of arms control agreements, regional disarmament in general, and trans-shipment of nuclear materials.

"The International Seminar on Disarmament and Security in Latin America"

Some of the major themes of the seminar, organized by the UN and the government of Peru, were: negative security assurances, safeguards, and confidence building measures in the context of NWFZs; regional arms control initiatives; and verification.

"Tlatelolco II" is the term attached to an initiative that seeks to apply the nuclear lessons of Tlatelolco to the broader arms control issues of the region. In other words, an attempt at "self-restraint" on the possession of conventional arms by Latin American states with commitment from the supplier countries - especially the United States - to respect those limitations on arms. Ambassador Sergio Gonzalez Galvez of Mexico said, "You can not have a zone of peace in Latin America if you stop only with nuclear weapons, you have to limit also conventional weapons, especially those that are not necessary for self-defense." This is still in the discussion phase; there are no firm proposals on the table.

Hector Gros Espiell, a former Secretary-General of OPANAL, addressed negative security assurances, contrasting the NPT and Tlatelolco Treaty. He said the lack of NSA in the NPT "constitutes a serious discrimination in the NPT," while calling Protocol II of Tlatelolco "the most effective NSA under international law," which should be replicated for other existing and future zones. He said he believed NSAs should be a priority issue before the upcoming conference on NWFZs.

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