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First round of UN talks ends on hopeful note

April 1, 2017


1st round of nuke ban treaty negotiations ends on high note



NEW YORK (Kyodo) -- The first session of the negotiations to ban nuclear weapons ended on Friday at the United Nations with diplomats and activists agreeing that the conference went beyond expectations and the goal of realizing the first-ever treaty of its kind can be reached in July.

"This week has been a resounding success, first and foremost because it did what it meant to do," said Mexico's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Jorge Lomonaco, at a side event just before the conference closed.

Mexico has played an instrumental role, along with Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Nigeria and South Africa in leading the efforts to ban nuclear weapons and in pressing for the adoption of a U.N. General Assembly resolution last year that set out the schedule for two conferences to be held in New York. The aim is to see a landmark treaty banning nuclear weapons realized for the first time ever.

The first of the sessions ended Friday after five days and a second is to begin in mid-June and conclude by July 7.

"We went beyond those expectations," Lomonaco added, noting how diplomats provided the president of the conference with ideas and proposals that will be considered in the production of a draft so that negotiations can move forward.

More than 115 countries participated in the conference with over 220 representatives from civil society, including atomic bomb victims from Hiroshima, according to Elayne Whyte Gomez, Costa Rican ambassador in Geneva, who is also president of the conference.

Absent from the discussions was Japan, which says it aspires to a nuclear-weapon-free world but relies on U.S. nuclear deterrence for protection. After delivering a speech on Monday, Japan's disarmament ambassador Nobushige Takamizawa announced his country would not participate in the talks.

The United States also staged a press conference, along with about 20 of its allies, to protest the start of the New York process.

The other nuclear weapon states -- Britain, China, France and Russia -- also did not attend, yet despite their absence many viewed the start of the negotiations as a success.

"As president, I feel very much satisfied with the progress achieved so far," Gomez told reporters at a press conference Thursday. "It makes me be very hopeful and optimistic that the completion of an effective and legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons by July 7 is an achievable goal."

On Friday, she said she is aiming to provide a draft to the delegates between the second half of May and the beginning of June, ahead of the next New York meeting.

She also pointed to the importance of the testimonies of Hiroshima atomic bomb survivors, Toshiki Fujmori and Setsuko Thurlow, as well as Sue Coleman Haseldine, an Australian Aboriginal survivor of nuclear tests, who spoke at the conference.

Their stories, she said have "reminded all delegates of the catastrophic humanitarian impact of any use of nuclear weapons" and "reaffirmed the commitment of all delegations to work toward a very positive result."

During the sessions, some raised the idea of mentioning the victims in the final document but that remains to be seen.

"I think there is general agreement in the room that we have to recognize the rights of the victims and survivors but there is disagreement on how that should be shaped," Beatice Fihn, executive director of the International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, told Kyodo News.

Fihn said the mention of the survivors raises concerns about whether victims, for example, could seek out compensation in courts or whether it might only apply to future victims or what types of general obligations there are to provide assistance and support.

She also agreed that the talks so far have been positive.

"Based on this week, we have a really good chance of adopting a strong treaty in July...but it is going to require a lot of work to get there."


April 1, 2017


Head of nuclear arms ban talks aims to draft treaty next month



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