UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Russia on Friday night blocked an agreement on the final document of a four-week review of the UN treaty considered a cornerstone of nuclear disarmament that has criticized its military takeover of the most Europe’s largest nuclear power plant shortly after Russian troops invaded Ukraine, an act that raised fears of a nuclear disaster.
Igor Vishnevetsky, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department, said at the latest delayed meeting of the conference reviewing the 50-year-old nuclear non-proliferation treaty that “unfortunately , there is no consensus on this document”. He insisted that many countries – not just Russia – disagreed with “a whole host of issues” in the latest 36-page draft.
The final document required the approval of all countries in the conference who are parties to the treaty aimed at curbing the spread of nuclear weapons and ultimately achieving a world without them.
Argentinian Ambassador Gustavo Zlauvinen, chairman of the conference, said the final draft represented his best efforts to respond to the differing views and expectations of the parties “for a gradual outcome” at a time in history when “our world is increasingly wracked by conflict, and, most alarmingly, the ever-growing prospect of the unthinkable nuclear war.
But after Vishnevetsky’s speech, Zlauvinen told delegates: “I see that at this stage the conference is not able to come to an agreement on its substantive work.”
The NPT Review Conference is supposed to be held every five years, but has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This marked the second failure of its 191 states parties to produce an outcome document. The last review conference in 2015 ended without an agreement due to serious differences over the establishment of a zone in the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.
These differences have not gone away but are being discussed, and draft final documents obtained by The Associated Press reportedly reaffirmed the importance of establishing a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. It was therefore not seen as a major stumbling block this year.
The issue that changed the dynamics of the conference was Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to warn that Russia is a “mighty” nuclear power and that any attempt interference would lead to “consequences that you have never seen”. .” He also put the Russian nuclear forces on high alert.
Putin has since backed down, saying “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”, a message reiterated by a senior Russian official on the opening day of the NPT conference on August 2.
But the initial threat from the Russian leader and the occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine as well as the takeover of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, rekindled global fears of a new nuclear emergency.
The four references in the draft outcome document to the factory in Zaporizhzhia, where Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of bombing, would have caused NPT parties to express “serious concern about military activities” in or proximity to the facility and other nuclear power plants.
He also reportedly acknowledged Ukraine’s loss of control and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inability to guarantee the safety of the plant’s nuclear materials. He backed IAEA efforts to visit Zaporizhzhia to ensure there is no diversion of its nuclear materials, a trip the agency’s director hopes to organize in the coming days.
The draft also expressed “serious concern” about the security of Ukrainian nuclear facilities, particularly in Zaporizhzia, and underlined “the paramount importance of ensuring control by the competent Ukrainian authorities”.
After the conference failed to adopt the document, dozens of countries took the floor to express their views.
Indonesia, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement comprising 120 developing countries, expressed disappointment at the failure, calling the outcome document “of utmost importance”.
Yann Hwang, French Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, read a statement on behalf of 56 countries and the European Union reaffirming its unwavering support for Ukraine and deploring “the dangerous nuclear rhetoric, actions and statements provocative statements by Russia regarding the raising of its nuclear alert level”.
The countries expressed deep concern that Russia is undermining international peace and the goals of the NPT “by waging its unlawful war of aggression against Ukraine.”
Deputy head of the Russian delegation, Andrei Belousov, said the conference had become a “political hostage” to countries that were “poisoning the discussions” with political language on Ukraine and determined “to settle accounts with the Russia by raising issues that are not directly related to the treaty.”
“These states, namely Ukraine and supporters of the Kyiv regime, bear full responsibility for the lack of a positive end result,” he said.
Adam Scheinman, the U.S. special representative for nuclear nonproliferation, noted that the final draft never named Russia, and he said he understated the situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant.” and failed to recognize what we all know to be true – that the risk of radiological disaster only exists because of Russia’s war of choice.
“Russia is the reason why we don’t have a consensus today,” he said. “The last minute changes requested by Russia were not minor. They were intended to protect Russia’s obvious intention to wipe Ukraine off the map.
Under the provisions of the NPT, the five original nuclear powers – the United States, China, Russia (then the Soviet Union), Great Britain and France – agreed to negotiate with a view to eliminating one day their arsenals and the nations without nuclear weapons promised not to acquire them in exchange for a guarantee to be able to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
The draft outcome document would have expressed deep concern “that the threat of the use of nuclear weapons today is higher than at any time since the heights of the Cold War and the deterioration of the international security environment”. . He would also have committed the parties to the treaty “to do everything possible to ensure that nuclear weapons are never again used”.
Rebecca Johnson, a British nuclear analyst and co-founder of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, said that “after weeks of wartime negotiations, global risks unprecedented and increased nuclear threats, it is clearer than ever now that nuclear abolition is urgent and necessary.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, said: “This NPT conference represents a missed opportunity to strengthen the treaty and global security by agreeing on a specific action plan with benchmarks. and timeliness which is essential to deal effectively with the growing dangers of the nuclear arms race and the use of nuclear weapons.