Security Council calls for world free of nuclear weapons during historic summit

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses Security Council summit as US President Barack Obama listens

24 September 2009 – The Security Council today affirmed its commitment to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and established a broad framework for reducing global nuclear dangers, in an historic summit-level meeting chaired by United States President Barack Obama.

Today’s meeting – only the fifth in the Council’s history to be held at the level of heads of State and government – began with the unanimous adoption of a resolution by which the 15-member body voiced grave concern about the threat of nuclear proliferation and the need for global action to combat it.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the resolution, adding that the summit was “an historic event that has opened a new chapter in the Council’s efforts to address nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.”

Stressing that “nuclear disarmament is the only sane path to a safer world,” Mr. Ban said in his opening remarks that “nothing would work better in eliminating the risk of use than eliminating the weapons themselves.”

In resolution 1887, the Council called on countries to sign and ratify the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and created additional deterrence for withdrawal from the treaty.

In addition, the Council called on all States to refrain from conducting a nuclear test explosion and to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), thereby bringing it into force as soon as possible.

“Although we averted a nuclear nightmare during the Cold War, we now face proliferation of a scope and complexity that demands new strategies and new approaches,” said Mr. Obama, the first US President to preside over a Security Council meeting.

“Just one nuclear weapon exploded in a city – be it New York or Moscow, Tokyo or Beijing, London or Paris – could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And it would badly destabilize our security, our economies, and our very way of life.”

Russia’s President said his country continues to reduce nuclear arms “way ahead of schedule,” adding that all of its nuclear weapons are “located on its national territory and under reliable protection.”

Dmitry Medvedev also highlighted the “unprecedented” reductions of strategic nuclear arsenals by Russia and the US.

Removing the threat of nuclear war is vital to realizing a safer world for all, China’s President Hu Jintao, told the Council, while acknowledging that nuclear disarmament remains a “long and arduous” task.

He put forward a series of measures, including abandoning the nuclear deterrence policy based on first use and taking credible steps to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons.

President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica said the UN had been founded on the promise that all people would able to sleep peacefully, but that promise had not been kept.

“While we sleep, death is awake. Death keeps watch from the warehouses that store more than 23,000 nuclear warheads, like 23,000 eyes open and waiting for a moment of carelessness,” he stated, adding that it did not seem plausible to discuss disarmament as long as existing agreements were not being honoured.

While affirming the right of nations to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the resolution called for stronger safeguards to reduce the likelihood that peaceful nuclear programmes can be diverted to a weapons programme, as well as stricter national export controls on sensitive nuclear materials.

Director General Mohamed ElBaradei spoke of the need to strengthen and empower the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) if it is to play a role in nuclear disarmament.

“Our verification mandate is centred on nuclear material. If the Agency is to be expected to pursue possible weaponization activities, it must be empowered with the corresponding legal authority,” he said.

During the meeting several delegates voiced concern about the challenges to the non-proliferation regime posed by the nuclear activities of Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The world cannot stand by when Iran and DPRK reject the opportunities of peaceful civil nuclear power and instead take steps to develop nuclear weapons in a way that threatens regional peace and security, stated Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom.

“Today, I believe we have to draw a line in the sand. Iran must not allow its actions to prevent the international community from moving forward to a more peaceful era,” he said, adding that as evidence of Iran’s breach of international agreements grows, tougher sanctions must be considered.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that DPRK shows what happens when too much time is allowed to pass. After years of diplomatic efforts, the country is now at the point of conducting nuclear tests and long-range missile tests, and it exports sensitive technologies to unstable regions, he stated.

“I call on those with the means to put pressure and exert influence on Pyongyang to use them so that it puts a halt to these schemes.”

Today’s meeting comes ahead of the nuclear security summit to be convened by Mr. Obama next April and the NPT Review Conference set for next May. It also coincided with a two-day conference that began at UN Headquarters today to try to promote the CTBT and its entry into force.

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