Virus delays UN nuclear treaty meeting, possibly until August
NEW YORK (AP) – A wave of coronavirus has shattered plans to hold a major nuclear treaty conference at the United Nations, with participants agreeing on Thursday to postpone the meeting just days before its scheduled start.
After nearly two years of pandemic delay, delegations from around the world were due to converge on the UN headquarters on Tuesday to take stock of the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty, a pillar of nuclear weapons control.
But organizers are now planning an August 1 start date for the already long-delayed conference, according to an email Thursday from the UN disarmament office to the entities involved.
An investigation was sent Thursday evening to the president of the conference, Gustavo Zlauvinen.
The treaty is the most widely ratified nuclear weapons control agreement in the world, with 191 participating countries. Nations without atomic weapons have pledged not to acquire them and to allow verification that nuclear energy programs do not turn into weapons. The countries that possessed nuclear weapons when the treaty was signed – the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China – agreed to move towards their elimination.
Review conferences are scheduled every five years to assess implementation and try to find new commitments, although participants have sometimes been unable to agree on a final statement or plan. This happened at the last meeting, in 2015.
The next rally was originally scheduled for spring 2020 but has been repeatedly postponed due to the pandemic.
As coronavirus cases rise again in the UN host city of New York and increasing numbers of staff are sick or quarantined, the global body told Zlauvinen on Monday that it will not couldn’t host a large gathering now. The organization suggested moving the conference online or delaying it.
After discussions with attendees, Zlauvinen said on Wednesday there was little appetite to proceed with next week’s start date.
“It is an unfortunate decision, but the current circumstances leave us no other choice,” wrote Zlauvinen, an Argentinian diplomat and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
There were further consultations Thursday on the timing and format of the meeting.
Besides governments, arms control groups are also eagerly awaiting the conference at a time when issues range from the frayed Iran nuclear deal to the work of established atomic powers to modernize their arsenals.
“The further postponement of the NPT Review Conference is very unfortunate and should not be used as an excuse not to pursue the actions necessary to slow the acceleration of the global nuclear arms race,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association. .
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