(Reuters) – Austria on Tuesday called for banning nuclear weapons because of their catastrophic humanitarian effects, an initiative it said now has the backing of 159 countries.
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz was speaking at the five-year review conference of the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“The only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons will never be used again is through their total elimination,” Kurz told the 191 parties to the treaty, the world’s benchmark arms control accord. “All states share the responsibility to prevent the use of nuclear weapons.”
Diplomats from the 159 countries supporting the ban, presented ahead of the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atom bombs dropped on Japan, said the initiative was modelled on successful campaigns to ban land mines and other weapons and could take years to move forward.
The initiative has virtually no support among NPT nuclear weapons states and veto-wielding Security Council members – the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China – or the countries of NATO, an alliance that provides a kind of “nuclear umbrella” security guarantee for its members.
But most of the 193 U.N. members back it.
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