Keynote Address by James Steinberg

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This session is part of a Council on Foreign Relations symposium on Rising Powers and Global Institutions in the Twenty-First Century and was made possible through generous support from the Robina Foundation.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg said recent UN Security Council moves to ratchet up sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program have highlighted the benefits of working through international bodies on nonproliferation. Speaking at a May 19 symposium on rising powers and global institutions at the Council on Foreign Relations, Steinberg cited this week's announcement that the permanent five Security Council members, including emerging powers Russia and China, supported a new draft resolution tightening sanctions against Iran.

"I think it really is a demonstration of how important it is to get international cooperation to try to use the institutions where they can be made to work and the possibility that they offer of really achieving important results on an issue that is at the center of our agenda, which is nonproliferation," he said.

Steinberg said the latest progress was a result of sustained effort by the administration to work with the permanent five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, known as the P-5. "I think our experience in working with the P-5 on the North Korean sanctions last year on Resolution 1874 put us in a much better position to move more quickly on the Iranian problem, as complicated as it is," he said. "We've had the experience; we've worked through a lot of questions about what are the different kinds of elements that might go into an effective sanctions regime associated with nonproliferation."

On the question of a Mideast nuclear-free zone, under discussion at the current UN Review Conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Steinberg warned about efforts that fail to take into account what he called the "underlying challenges and insecurities in the region."

"What we have not been supportive of is the idea that somehow this can be done without reference to the underlying causes of concern there," Steinberg said. "We hope that the parties of the current [NPT review conference] and others will have a practical approach that recognizes that we would all like to reduce the risk of proliferation and the use of nuclear weapons, but it has to be seen in the context of the particular and specific challenges of the Middle East." Egypt has been pressing for a resolution on a nuclear-free zone in the Mideast that includes a call for Israel, an undeclared nuclear power, to accede to the NPT.

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