The president of the UN conference drafting what could be the first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons expressed confidence Thursday that with "the necessary political will" more than 130 countries supporting the initiative can reach agreement by the July 7 target.
Elayne Whyte Gomez, Costa Rica's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told the opening of negotiations on a draft treaty circulated on May 22 that delegates were representing their countries – but they were also "united together in historic commitment" to finalizing a treaty.
Last December, UN member states overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for negotiations on a treaty that would outlaw nuclear weapons, despite strong opposition from nuclear-armed nations and their allies.
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Not one of the nine countries believed to possess nuclear weapons – the U.S., Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – is supporting a treaty.
Instead of adopting a total ban, the United States and other nuclear powers want to strengthen and reaffirm the nearly half-century-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The NPT, considered the cornerstone of global nonproliferation efforts, aims to prevent the spread of atomic arms beyond the five original weapons powers – the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China.
It requires non-nuclear signatory nations not to pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five nuclear powers to move toward nuclear disarmament – and to guarantee non-nuclear states access to peaceful nuclear technology to produce nuclear power.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said on March 27 when talks began on the nuclear weapons ban treaty that "there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic."
She asked if anyone thought North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons, stressing that North Koreans would be "cheering" a nuclear ban treaty – and Americans and others would be at risk.
But UN disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitsu told Thursday's opening that negotiations to achieve "the clear, legal prohibition of nuclear weapons ... are truly historic."
"Nuclear disarmament has been the longest sought objective of the United Nations dating back to the very first resolution adopted by the General Assembly in January 1946," she said.
"We have seen some impressive gains since that time," Nakamitsu said. "Yet, it has been more than 20 years now since the United Nations disarmament bodies have produced a multilateral legally binding instrument on nuclear weapons."
She said "the need for progress is clear" and urgent, pointing to "the deteriorating international security landscape," new awareness of the devastating consequences of using nuclear weapons, and the modernization of nuclear arsenals by some countries.
The draft treaty, among other things, says states would pledge never to develop, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, transfer, receive, stockpile, test or use nuclear weapons or explosives. They would also endeavour to prohibit any "stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices" on their territories or in their jurisdictions.
"We are confident the treaty can be completed and adopted by July 7," the final day of negotiations, said David Solimini, spokesman for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. "Once the treaty is adopted countries are free to join."