The United States has blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons, saying Egypt and other states tried to “cynically manipulate” the process by setting a deadline for Israel and its neighbours to meet within months on a Middle East zone free of such weapons.
The now-failed final document of a landmark treaty review conference had called on the UN secretary-general to convene the Middle East conference no later than March 2016, regardless of whether Israel and its neighbours agree on an agenda.
Israel is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has never publicly declared what is widely considered to be an extensive nuclear weapons program. A
conference might force Israel to acknowledge it.
Since adopting a final document requires consensus, the rejection by the United States, backed by Britain and Canada, means the entire blueprint for global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation for the next five years has been blocked after four weeks of negotiations. The next treaty review conference is in 2020.
That has alarmed countries without nuclear weapons, who are increasingly frustrated by what they see as the slow pace of nuclear-armed countries to disarm. The United States and Russia hold more than 90 per cent of the estimated 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world today.
Amid a growing movement that stresses the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, Austria announced that 107 states have now signed a pledge calling for legal measures to ban and eliminate them.
The US comments yesterday came after a top State Department official was dispatched to Israel this week for intense talks, as Israel protested the idea of being forced into a conference with its Arab neighbours without prior agreement on an agenda.
Israel had been furious when the US at the treaty review conference five years ago signed off on a document that called for talks on a Middle East nuclear-free zone by 2012. Those talks never took place.
The language on the final document rejected Friday was “incompatible with our long-standing policies,” said Rose Gottemoeller, the US under secretary of state for arms control and international security.