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Guterres: Only way to remove nuclear risk, ‘completely eliminate nuclear weapons’

Secretary-General António Guterres told delegates gathered to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, it was the only way “to completely eliminate nuclear risk.”

And although nuclear disarmament has been a UN priority since its founding 75 years ago, he reminded the plenary meeting that “the world continues to live in the shadow of nuclear catastrophe”. 

For security’s sake

Progress towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons has “stalled and is at risk of backsliding”, the UN chief warned.

Against the backdrop of growing distrust and tension between Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) – and programmes that modernize arsenals for faster, stealthier and more accurate weapons, with costs Mr. Guterres called “simply staggering” – he said, pointedly, that the only treaty restricting the size of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals is set to expire early next year – threatening a return to “unconstrained strategic competition”.

“For the sake of all of our security, the world must return to a common path towards nuclear disarmament”, he underscored, adding that it is “imperative” for Russia and the United States to extend, “without delay”, the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) for the maximum duration of five years.

Among other things, START calls for halving the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers and establishing a new inspection and verification regime within seven years from the date the treaty enters into force. 

The Secretary-General upheld that NWS “have a responsibility to lead”, including by honouring their existing commitments and taking steps to reduce nuclear risks. 

“Especially in today’s tense international security environment, with rising friction between major powers, such steps are more necessary than ever”, he spelled out. 

The world must return to a common path towards nuclear disarmament — UN chief

In conclusion, the Secretary-General advocated for “a strengthened, inclusive and renewed multilateralism built on trust” with human security at its centre, to “guide us to our shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons”.

Stop wasting time

Meanwhile, Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the General Assembly, noted that amidst rising global tensions, the disarmament architecture is “under significant strain”.

“Parties have withdrawn from nuclear-related agreements and others are set to expire”, he elaborated, adding that “some Member States have threatened to restart nuclear testing”. 

Mr. Bozkir stressed the need to return to “the common goal” of a nuclear-weapons free world weapons and flagged the cornerstone Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, as the right tools to achieve it.

Noting that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the NPT, the Assembly president urged its States’ Parties to use the postponed 2020 NPT Review Conference next year, to renew their commitments and discuss “practical steps in nuclear disarmament”.

“Nuclear disarmament must remain a priority to all of us”, he underscored. “We cannot afford to waste any more time”. 

See this UN video explainer on the NPT treaty:


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