By Jutta Wolf
BERLIN | LONDON (IDN) – A group of eminent world leaders, comprising The Elders, has called on the heads of states of five permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council to use the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki “as a moment to reflect on the lives lost and begin substantive steps towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons”.
The atomic bombing of the two cities on August 6 and 9, 1945 led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, laying bare the true horror of nuclear weapons. Today, over 13,000 nuclear warheads are in existence.
The Elders, who include former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, plead for a summit of the five heads of states of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US – the five victors of World War II to whom the UN Charter of 1945 grants a permanent seat on the UN Security Council – to deal straightaway with arms control that has been fizzling out.
They express the hope that the proposed summit could be arranged at the earliest opportunity and allow for constructive discussions to strengthen existing arms controls between the nuclear states.
The Elders are also calling on the P5 to make a collective statement, building upon Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev’s declaration that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”, as a means of building trust and improving the global atmosphere ahead of next year’s delayed NPT Review Conference.
In a direct appeal to the ‘P5’ heads of state, the Elders are stressing that “leadership in tackling these nuclear threats is needed more than ever”.
In letters to US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Elders expressed alarm that the breakdown of arms control agreements, the emergence of additional nuclear states and the resurgence of geopolitical tensions have significantly increased the risks of nuclear catastrophe.
Such risks pose a serious threat to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which has made a critical contribution to limiting the spread of nuclear weapons since 1970. There are also serious concerns presented by new technologies, such as the development of hypersonic cruise missiles and the growth of increasingly sophisticated and opaque cyber capabilities.
The Elders emphasise the heavy responsibilities of all nuclear-weapon states to reduce nuclear risks and to work in good faith towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
In particular, the Elders have called on President Donald Trump to accept President Vladimir Putin’s offer to immediately extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for another five years and urged him not to make extension of the treaty conditional on China’s participation in new arms control negotiations.
The Elders believe extending New START would provide a necessary basis for any new negotiations with China and other nuclear states as part of an expanded longer-term arms control framework.
As the world marks 75 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Mary Robinson, first woman President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who chairs the Elders, has called for a moment of reflection: “The 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing should give the entire world pause for thought. We must all recognise the horrendous human cost of this tragic event and renew our commitment to never letting it happen again.”
Ban Ki-moon, the Deputy Chair of The Elders, reiterated the need for political action from the US and Russia: “I urge Presidents Trump and Putin to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Without action, New START will expire in February 2021, meaning there would be no binding agreement on arms control between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.”
The Elders are independent leaders using their collective experience and influence for peace, justice and human rights worldwide. The group was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007.
The Elders are Ban Ki-moon (Deputy Chair), Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, Hina Jilani, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Ricardo Lagos, Graça Machel (Deputy Chair), Juan Manuel Santos, Mary Robinson (Chair) and Ernesto Zedillo.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (1938-2018) was a founding member of The Elders and served as Chair from 2013 to 2018. [IDN-InDepthNews – 05 August 2020]
Image: Peace cranes. Credit: ICAN | Ari-Beser
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