Tlatelolco Turns Thirty

The world's forerunner of nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZs) - the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America, best known as the Tlatelolco Treaty - marked its thirtieth anniversary in 1997. The Treaty opened for signature in February 1967 in Tlatelolco, Mexico, with the participation of eighteen States in the Latin American region. In commemoration of the occasion, Mr. E. Roman-Morey, who heads the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL), presented an overview of the Treaty's evolution at the IAEA Symposium on International Safeguards. Excerpts follow:

"In October 1962 in the core of the Cold War, the world frightfully awaited the results of "the Cuban Missile Crisis". Those thirteen days were enough for Latin America to realize that without being direct actors in the conflict between the two blocks...it could have nonetheless been affected by the destructive consequences of a nuclear confrontation. This luckily never took place.

The ingenious Latin American reaction that came to light is perhaps the greatest contribution of our region to international law: The Treaty of Tlatelolco, the world's first NWFZ in a densely populated area... The Treaty opened for signature on February 14, 1967...

The Treaty was born during the Cold War and in spite of it. As you know we did not invent the wheel but we were the first ones to make it roll. There were previous initiatives, such as the ones in Central and Nordic Europe which were not possible to develop because of the Cold War. Other later NWFZs, like the Treaties of Bangkok and Pelindaba, were possible only because of the end of the Cold War. Tlatelolco is specifically dedicated to nuclear disarmament, but its final goal is "total and complete disarmament". At the same time it has a solid social basis. It states the obligation that its parties should use nuclear installations and nuclear energy exclusively for peaceful purposes, for the benefit of its peoples...

The Treaty of Tlatelolco was one of the very first clear examples that when there is a defined political will and transparency and trust among the parties to a disarmament treaty, it can be considered an important confidence-building measure. The circumstances in which it was conceived, the way its text was drafted, the participation and non-participation in the Treaty and its later development through three decades are strongly linked to the presence or absence of confidence, trust, and transparency in the region.

...A very important characteristic of Tlatelolco is that it is considered the first international disarmament instrument which involves in its legal framework not only its Member States but the recognized nuclear-weapons States... Additional Protocol II, aimed at nuclear-weapon States, provides for the first time in this type of Treaty so-called "negative security assurances"... All five NWS have signed and ratified this Protocol...

Relations with the IAEA are very clearly defined... Article 13 is directly engaged with the important issue of safeguards (requiring the negotiation of agreements with the IAEA). Additionally, OPANAL and the IAEA also have a co-operation agreement in force. Within its framework in March 1996, both organizations co-sponsored an international seminar on the IAEA's Safeguards System, held in Kingston Jamaica, for experts of all the Member States of OPANAL. I must underline that this seminar was a great success for the region and was honored by the personal participation of Dr. Hans Blix, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei and the highest ranking IAEA safeguards officials.

Out of the 33 Latin American and Caribbean States in the region, today all but one have signed and ratified the Treaty. Cuba is the only State which still needs to ratify it. Regarding the safeguards agreements with the IAEA, out of the 33 States, only Haiti needs to finalize its negotiations with the IAEA...

NWFZs should always be accepted as a cornerstone in the international regime of non-proliferation and as an important landmark in the "step-by-step" process towards total and complete disarmament... After thirty years we have learned that confidence-building measures, and as a consequence NWFZs, are very important tools to help dissipate insecurity and to improve the political environment. Thus they facilitate larger, bigger and stronger agreements related to international security and co-operation."


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