Russia blocks final document at nuclear treaty conference

On Friday night, Russia blocked agreement on the outcome document of a four-week review of the UN treaty seen as the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament that criticized its takeover of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant shortly after the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops.

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 document had to be approved by the 191 countries party to the treaty aimed at curbing the spread of nuclear weapons.

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 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.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – As the end Friday of a four-week conference to review the landmark United Nations treaty to curb the spread of nuclear weapons, delegates raced to reach agreement on an outcome document with Russia invading Ukraine and taking over Europe’s largest. nuclear energy a major obstacle.

Argentine Ambassador Gustavo Zlauvinen, chairman of the conference to review the 50-year-old nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which is considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament, circulated a revised 36-page draft outcome document aimed at addressing some of China’s concerns. But he still made the same four references to Russia’s occupation of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine – but without naming Russia.

Any document must be approved by the 191 countries party to the treaty, and the closing plenary meeting to consider the revised draft was delayed while delegates met behind closed doors to try to engage all countries.

Earlier this week, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council that the Biden administration was seeking a consensual outcome document that strengthens the nuclear treaty and recognizes “the way the Russia’s war and irresponsible actions in Ukraine seriously undermine the NPT. primary objective.”

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States and its allies at this council meeting of “politicizing the work on the final document, placing their geopolitical interests in punishing Russia above their collective needs to strengthen global security”.

“In the context of the real sabotage by the collective West of the global security architecture, Russia continues to do everything possible to keep at least its key and vital elements afloat,” Nebenzia said.

The four references to Zaporizhzhia, where Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of bombing, would cause NPT parties to express their “serious concern about military activities” inside or near the installation and other nuclear power plants, to recognize the loss of control of Ukraine and the international community The inability of the Atomic Energy Agency to ensure the safeguard of its nuclear materials.

The parties would also support the IAEA’s efforts to visit Zaporizhzhia to ensure there is no diversion of its nuclear materials which the agency’s director hopes to stage in the coming days. And he would express his “serious concern” about the security of Ukrainian nuclear installations, in particular in Zaporizhzia, and would underline “the paramount importance of ensuring control by the competent Ukrainian authorities”.

The NPT Review Conference is supposed to be held every five years, but has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last one 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 the two draft documents obtained by The Associated Press would reaffirm the importance of establishing a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. So it’s not seen as a major deal breaker this year.

The issue that changed the dynamics of the conference was Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warning that Russia is a “mighty” nuclear power and that any attempt to interference would lead to “consequences that you have never seen”. his decision soon after to place 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 Zaporizhzhia by Russian forces shortly after the invasion and their takeover of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, reignited fears of another nuclear emergency.

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 nuclear weapons in exchange. for a guarantee of being able to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

India and Pakistan, which did not join the NPT, got the bomb. North Korea followed suit, which ratified the pact but later announced it was withdrawing. Non-signatory Israel, which purports to have a nuclear arsenal but neither confirms nor denies it, has been a stumbling block in talks on a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

Nonetheless, the treaty has been credited with limiting the number of nuclear newcomers (US President John F. Kennedy once predicted up to 20 nuclear-armed nations) as a framework for international disarmament cooperation.

The draft outcome document would express 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.” It would also commit the 191 parties to the treaty “to do their utmost to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again”.

The parties would call on India, Israel and Pakistan to join the NPT “as non-nuclear weapon states” and South Sudan to join as soon as possible. They would call on North Korea to return to the treaty as soon as possible. date and immediately cease its nuclear activities.

Diplomats and nuclear experts monitoring the closed-door negotiations cited differences between China and the West that could have blocked agreement on a final document but appear to have been resolved in the final draft.

China wanted the document to mention the US-British-Australian agreement to supply Australia with a nuclear-powered submarine, and the final draft notes that the NPT parties are interested in the “subject of naval nuclear propulsion ” and the importance of a transparent agreement. and open the dialogue about it.

Among the five nuclear powers, China is the only one to still produce fissile materials – uranium or plutonium – necessary for the production of nuclear weapons, and several Western countries have wanted to pressure Beijing to stop the production.

The original draft included a call on the five nuclear-weapon states “to declare or maintain existing moratoriums on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive devices.” This was eliminated in the final draft which calls for the immediate opening of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material.

The draft outcome document barely mentions the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, saying only that it was adopted in July 2017, entered into force in January 2021 and held its first meeting of States Parties in June 2022. Some Western countries argue that calls for immediate nuclear disarmament are totally unrealistic in today’s highly polarized and chaotic world.

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Christi C. Elwood