No Way to Free Middle East from Nuclear Weapons – UN Warns of ‘Dangerous Return to Cold War’

Human Wrongs Watch

New York – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed disappointment at the inability of Member States to reach consensus on a “substantive outcome” on a non-proliferation treaty key for global nuclear disarmament, according to a United Nations spokesperson.

An atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1 November 1952. Photo: US Government | Source: UN

In a statement issued on 23 May 2015 regarding the conclusion of the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the UN spokesperson said the Secretary-General particularly regretted that States parties were “unable to narrow their differences on the future of nuclear disarmament or to arrive at a new collective vision on how to achieve a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.”*

“The Secretary-General appeals to all States to sustain the momentum they have built over the past five years, including new initiatives in the pursuit of nuclear disarmament and continuing efforts to strengthen nuclear non-proliferation,” the statement continued.

“With respect to the Middle East, the Secretary-General continues to stand ready to support efforts to promote and sustain the inclusive regional dialogue necessary to achieve this goal.”

Ban has previously lamented a reversal in progress towards new arms reduction agreements following “allegations of destabilizing violations of existing agreements.”

In addition, he has warned that the international tide of nuclear abolition – so strong in 2010 – has, in fact, ebbed leading to mounting tensions between nuclear-armed States and a return to Cold War mind sets.

In the statement, the Secretary-General’s spokesperson added that Ban hoped that the growing awareness of “the devastating humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons continues to compel urgent actions for effective measures leading to the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.” (*Source: UN).

‘Global tide of nuclear abolition has ebbed causing tensions among nations’

Atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States on 18 April 1953 at the Nevada Test Site. Photo: US Government | Source: UN

On 28 April 2015, Ban said that achieving a world free of nuclear weapons is “one of the most crucial debates of our time.”  He emphasizing that the international tide of nuclear abolition – so strong in 2010 – has ebbed and mounting tensions between nuclear-armed States have produced a return to Cold War mind sets.**

“Nuclear weapons are again becoming embedded in national defence strategies. Support has deepened for misguided doctrines of deterrence,” Ban said in a message delivered by UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane to the Symposium and High-Level Panel on the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Nuclear Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Energy; Fresh Ideas for the Future.

No Leadership from Nuclear Weapons States

“Modernization programmes envisage retention of these deadly weapons for decades to come. Nuclear weapon States have not demonstrated the leadership required to break the status quo, instead attaching hollow conditions to their disarmament obligations,” Ban added in the message.

The Symposium, a side event held in connection with the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which opened yesterday at UN Headquarters, was also expected to hear from UN Messenger of Peace, Michael Douglas.

“This Review Conference offers an opportunity to change the narrative; to remind all States parties that their collective good is best served by the full implementation of – and compliance with – all of the Treaty’s goals; and to put us back on course,” Ban said, calling on participants to provide ideas that will “propel us down the path to a world free of nuclear weapons.”

For over four decades, the Treaty has been a bulwark against the spread of the most dangerous and inhumane weapons ever devised, and it has been a central and essential mechanism for their elimination. Calling it “indispensable,” Ban said the Treaty has strengthened the security of all States parties, serving as a foundation for international security.

Over the course of its history, the NPT has also helped cope with multiple challenges and competing positions.

While the ultimate goal of the NPT – to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to bring about their elimination – has not changed, the international security climate has evolved and continued to do so, with new problems constantly “testing our resolve,” Ban said.

To be effectively implemented, the Treaty requires constant tending to ensure that it remains strong and capable of safeguarding against the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons.

“We need new ideas to shore up the NPT, to confront new obstacles head on, and to overcome them,” he said. “Proliferation challenges persist. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues with its dangerous and destabilizing activities, flouting international law and the will of the international community.”

Middle East 

At the same time, despite valiant efforts, the conference on a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction has not yet taken place, Ban noted. The benefits of such a zone are manifold, including regional peace and stability.

“We have seen the sheer emergence of a movement seeking to address the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. This has re-energized a frozen debate, reminding us that the indiscriminate and catastrophic costs of nuclear weapons are, at their core, human costs,” he added.

The 2015 Review Conference will run at UN Headquarters in New York through 22 May. The President-designate of the Conference is Ambassador Taous Feroukhi from Algeria.

The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. It represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States. (**Source: UN).

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2015 Human Wrongs Watch

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