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Digital Archive International History Declassified

October 29, 1985

MEMORANDUM FROM FOREIGN MINISTER OLAVO SETúBAL TO PRESIDENT SARNEY, 'BRAZIL-ARGENTINA. COOPERATION ON NUCLEAR ENERGY'

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    The document presents the proposal to create an Argentina-Brazil working group to discuss nuclear energy.
    "Memorandum from Foreign Minister Olavo Setúbal to President Sarney, 'Brazil-Argentina. Cooperation on Nuclear Energy'," October 29, 1985, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, AHMRE. Critical Oral History Conference on the Argentine-Brazilian Nuclear Cooperation, Rio de Janeiro, March 2012. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/123364
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Ministry of Foreign Affairs

86th Note

Item number 08

Information to Mr. President of the Republic

Date: October 29th 1985

Topics: Brazil – Argentina. Cooperation on nuclear energy.

In addition to the information note number 141 issued on 07/27/1985, about the relations between Brazil and Argentina on nuclear issues, I send Your Excellency a list of suggestions about initiatives that could be undertaken in this area before Your Excellency’s meeting with President Alfonsín next November.

2. As referred  in the  aforementioned information  note, which analyzed  the proposal  by Professor  J. Goldemberg, the independent position adopted until now by Brazil and Argentina on nuclear affairs will be better accepted by the international community and both countries’ domestic public opinion, if they both maintain close relations regarding this issue. It has also been discussed in that note that a timely Brazilian- Argentine joint statement on the matter shall undoubtedly express that independent position, which was not included on Professor Goldemberg’s proposal not only due to the concepts contained in it, but also to the moment it was presented, which was days before the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

3. With the  end of  the NPT Conference  and the opportunity  created by the  meeting between Your Excellency and the Argentine President, the scenario offers conditions to consider initiatives that reaffirm the understanding between Brazil and Argentina on nuclear matters. Such statement is necessary since there are indications that limitations to nuclear trade and cooperation tend to increase for countries like Brazil and Argentina – and both countries enjoy cooperation and maintain independent programs. Indeed, evidence suggests that the international control regime applied by supplier countries was strengthened after the NPT Conference, where under development countries hardly manifested their disposition to demand actual action by the nuclear powers on their commitments regarding cooperation. There may be effects on IAEA, where more and more regulatory measures are being imposed.

4. At bilateral level, the barriers imposed to get equipment, whether on “trigger lists” or not, are also on the rise. At the moment, CNEN is finding difficult to get an authorization in the USA to receive a measurement device bought there, and a similar case happened recently with a computer for IPT. Last year, the French government imposed unacceptable requirements to the sale of compressors to NUCLEI, which impeded the deal. As far as we know, Argentina has been facing similar issues.

5. Being necessary not only for Brazil but also for Argentina to, if not possible to revert, at least minimize this trend of limitations to nuclear trade and cooperation – suffered by these countries due to their denial in accepting international control over their independent programs – the best can be taken out of the next meeting  between  Your  Excellency  and  President  Alfonsín  in  order  to  undertake  joint  initiatives  that

reaffirm both countries’ willingness to increase their cooperation on nuclear matters and reaffirm the peaceful purposes of their respective programs.

6. The following initiatives have different but complementary purposes: a) a joint statement reinforcing the peaceful purpose of their respective programs; b) the creation of a political, diplomatic and technical working group, within the 1981 agreement, to support the cooperation established in such agreement.

7. The declaration, which could be a separate document or part of the joint statement, would condemn the proliferation of nuclear weapons and reaffirm the undeniable right both countries have to unrestricted access to nuclear technology. The abovementioned declaration shall be elaborated in a way not to mean a unilateral concession by both countries to the international pressure for control over their independent programs. In my opinion, this issue is of special importance, since it guarantees to Brazil the possibility of relative equal nuclear technology to Argentina’s – a country that is more developed than us on this field, as the evidence suggests.

8. The working group would complement the political gesture contained in the statement. Indeed, the creation of such group – which would be jointly coordinated by officials from Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both countries and composed of technicians and members of both Argentine and Brazilian nuclear Commissions and companies – would undoubtedly reinforce the consistency and durability of what had been said before. There has been something similar in the past. In 1982, when of President Reagan’s visit to Brazil was approaching there was, among others, a group about nuclear affairs, which managed to achieve its aims by easing the relationship between the two countries on that field, despite limitations on the American legislation.

9. In the Argentine case, the creation of a working group to improve relations could possibly have more political impact. For the first time in the international scenario of atomic energy, two “threshold countries” and suspected of rivalry would establish such initiative (it would be more difficult to bring Brazil and Argentina together than Arab countries and Israel, or India or Pakistan). At the same time, it would not be difficult to establish a working agenda for such organization, since there are concrete exchange possibilities between the countries on this matter.

10. However, the political importance of a specific working group on nuclear affairs is paramount, comparable to that American initiative. This group will allow countries to maintain regular dialogues on a sensitive and controversial topic. It would improve coordination between the countries on a mutually interesting area and with media coverage on meetings in Brasilia and Buenos Aires, it would display and demonstrate the good relation between the countries on that matter – making more difficult for recurrent negative speculations that tend to shake this bond.

11. Finally, I believe the Argentines will favorably receive these initiatives because of their recent interest on nuclear relations with Brazil, manifested by the Argentine government and President Alfonsín himself. I truly believe that joint initiatives on this field will contribute to the political relevance of the presidential meeting due to the great convergence of interests, which may not always happen in other sectors of the bilateral relation.

12. If Your Excellency agrees with the abovementioned suggestions, Itamaraty shall contact the National Security Council and the National Nuclear Energy Commission in order to elaborate a draft statement to be proposed to the Argentines together with the creation of a working group as described above.

Olavo Egydio Setúbal

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs

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