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Boris Johnson urged to back UN nuclear disarmament push

The UN general assembly will be consider a proposal for a new disarmement conference

Jon Stone Political Correspondent
Wednesday 26 October 2016

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London on October 18, 2016 Getty

Boris Johnson has been urged to back a United Nations initiative to restart efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Groups including Greenpeace UK, CND, and Quakers in Britain wrote to the Foreign Secretary to ask him to back tomorrow’s UN general assembly motion on multilateral disarmament.

In August this year a UN working group recommended the setting up of a “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

In September Austria’s government announced that it would sponsor a UN resolution recommending such a conference, with a general assembly vote now due on the subject.

The groups, organised by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, say it is not clear which way the UK will vote. Activists delivered a letter to the Foreign Office urging Mr Johnson to direct the UK to back the motion.

“The existence of nuclear weapons poses a dangerous threat to global security; any intended or unintended detonation will have catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences,” the signatories say.

“The international community has already outlawed other inherently inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, from chemical and biological weapons to antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions. 

“A ban on nuclear weapons is long overdue – and the UK must be part of that process.”

Dr Matthew Rowland, the UN’s permanent ambassador at the UN in Geneva, has said earlier this month that countries should adopt a principle of “do no harm” with regards to nuclear weapons rather than pushing for a ban, however.

The signatories said they were “alarmed and disappointed” by this statement.

The international push for multiliateral disarmement comes after MPs voted to renew the Trident nuclear weapons system – rejecting unilateral disarmement in the UK.

The full list of NGOs to sign the letter is: the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, Article 36, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Greenpeace UK, Medact, Movement for the Abolition of War, Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Nuclear Morality Flowchart Project, Pax Christi British Section, Quakers in Britain, Scientists for Global Responsibility, Strategic Concept for Removal of Arms and Proliferation (SCRAP), and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom UK.

A Foreign Office spokesperson told The Independent:  “The UK is committed to a world without nuclear weapons, in line with our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, we firmly believe that the best way to achieve a world without nuclear weapons is through gradual multilateral disarmament negotiated using a step-by-step approach and within existing international frameworks.”

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