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The Relationship of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons with other Agreements: Ambiguity, Complementarity, or Conflict?

Published on August 1, 2017        Author: 

As discussed in Dan Joyner’s recent blog entry, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted by 122 States at a United Nations diplomatic conference in New York on 7 July 2017. Article 18 of the Treaty addresses its “relationship with other agreements”. There is, though, an ongoing debate as to the implications of this provision. On 7 July 2017, following the adoption of the Treaty by participating states in the United Nations diplomatic conference, Singapore (the sole abstention) stated in its explanation of vote that phrasing in the article was “ambiguous”. In this blog entry, I argue that this claim is unfounded.

Article 18 is based on a corresponding provision in Article 26(1) of the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the intent of which was to ensure that ATT states parties could adopt, or be party to, treaties and other binding agreements governing the trade in conventional arms and ammunition but that they could not lawfully implement any provisions under these other agreements if the obligations therein were inconsistent with their obligations in the ATT.

In the first draft of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (22 May 2017), it was stipulated in Article 19 that it “does not affect the rights and obligations of the States Parties under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons”. Thus, it was apparent from the outset that the relationship between the future Treaty and the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) could be a bone of contention during the negotiations. This was borne out in practice in the June–July 2017 diplomatic conference.

With respect to relevant “obligations”, Article 1(b) and (c) of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, as adopted, is taken verbatim from Articles I and II of the NPT, respectively. In addition, although the precise formulations differ, there are clear prohibitions on assisting any of the prohibited activities in both the NPT and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Read the rest of this entry…

Filed under: Arms Control, Nuclear Weapons
 
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