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Talks set for nuclear weapons ban after historic UN vote

Published October 27, 2016 - EFE

United Nations –  United Nations, Oct 27 (efe_epa).- Countries around the world will meet next year to negotiate a new treaty banning nuclear weapons, despite opposition from the world's strongest nuclear powers.

The landmark resolution calling for a ban on nuclear weapons was adopted on Thursday by a United Nations General Assembly committee, with a vote of of 123 to 38, and 16 abstentions.

The resolution presented by Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa called for a UN conference to "negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination."

Countries, international organizations and civil society will participate in the conference, to be held in New York from March 27 to 31 and June 15 to July 7, 2017.

The resolution adopted Thursday is not legally binding, but it is considered a good start and a "historic" step by organizations that defend the abolition of nuclear weapons.

However, states with nuclear weapons put great efforts to try to stop the approval.

"Nations with nuclear weapons are pretty nervous," executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Beatrice Fihn, told EFE.

ICAN, other organizations and several diplomatic sources said that some countries like the United States have lobbied allies to vote against the initiative.

Among other arguments, the powers believe the negotiations will have no real consequences.

Russia strongly criticized the initiative, warning that it will have negative consequences, while France and the United Kingdom argued that this process will hinder the progress of the Treaty on the NonProliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the agreement limiting possession of atomic weapons.

According to the treaty, the US, Russia, China, France and the UK, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, are authorized to have nuclear weapons.

India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea are also known or believed to possess nuclear weapons.

Of all these nations, only North Korea supported the resolution adopted on Thursday, while India, Pakistan and China abstained and the rest voted against.

With the exception of the Netherlands, which abstained, all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, including Spain, Germany, Italy and Turkey also voted "no."

Japan and South Korea, which are threatened by North Korea's nuclear weapons in the region, also voted against the resolution.

Negotiations at the UN came at a time when nuclear disarmament efforts appear to have lost momentum amid growing tension between Russia and the West and the latest threats from North Korea.

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