Vienna, Jun 21 (EFE).- More than 80 nations opened the first conference of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TNPW) in Vienna on Tuesday with a call to eradicate atomic weapons “before they eliminate us.”
The conference came a year and a half after the Treaty was signed but was not attended by the nine global nuclear powers, most Nato members and other nations such as Japan and South Korea.
Addressing delegates in a video message, the United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres described nuclear arms as a “scourge.”
“The decisions you make at this meeting will help cement the Treaty’s position as an essential element of the global disarmament and non-proliferation architecture. And it will hopefully convince more countries to get on board,” he added.
“It is only by joining in solidarity that we can eliminate this scourge and get back to the business of building a better, more peaceful and trusting world for all.
“Let’s eliminate these weapons before they eliminate us.”
Austria’s foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg echoed those words at the opening of the conference, and accused Russia of “nuclear blackmail.”
A total of 49 of the 65 Treaty signatory nations attended the conference as well as 33 countries in an observer capacity, including Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.
The world’s five designated nuclear powers are the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom while India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea also have access to nuclear weapons.
Overall, the nations have access to 13,000 nuclear weapons, 90% of which correspond to Russia and the US.
The conference in Vienna took place in the midst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, during which Moscow has implicitly threatened to use nuclear arms.
Critics of the TNPW would argue that more nuclear weapons are needed to defend against such threats, although its supporters insist that would only lead to an atomic arms race.
Only three European Union nations have signed up to the Treaty so far — Austria, the Republic of Ireland and Malta, none of which are members of Nato.
Latin American signatories include Brazil, Cuba, Peru and Uruguay. EFE