GENEVA: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Monday for a new global effort to get rid of nuclear weapons, drawing a cautious response from envoys of atomic-armed powers at odds for decades over nuclear disarmament.
Speaking to the Conference on Disarmament at the UN complex in Geneva, Guterres said many states still wrongly thought that nuclear weapons made the world safer.
“There is great and justified anxiety around the world about the threat of nuclear war,” he said.
“Countries persist in clinging to the fallacious idea that nuclear arms make the world safer … At the global level, we must work towards forging a new momentum on eliminating nuclear weapons.”
The Conference on Disarmament is the world’s main forum for nuclear disarmament, but since 1996 it has been deadlocked by disagreements and distrust between rival nuclear powers.
Ambassadors from the United States, China, and France said they shared his concerns about the current security environment but their comments suggested it would be an uphill struggle to end two decades of stalemate in nuclear negotiations.
US Ambassador Robert Wood said negotiators needed to “look reality in the eye” and accept that nuclear disarmament in the near term was unrealistic.
It was not the time for bold new disarmament initiatives, but the United States was committed to the “aspirational goal” of eliminating nuclear weapons and would stand by its commitments, Wood said.
“Even in these difficult times, the United States will seek the development of measures that may be effective in creating the conditions for future nuclear disarmament negotiations,” he told the forum.
Chinese Ambassador Fu Cong said China appreciated Guterres’ efforts but said reform should not be rushed.