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NPT: cornerstone of nuclear non-proliferation or stumbling block?
After the NPT Review Conference collapsed in disarray last week with disagreement over new proposals for a Middle East disarmament conference in 2016, humanitarian initiatives for a nuclear weapons prohibition treaty look like the only way forward.
After a tense standoff that carried several hours past the scheduled closing of the 2015 Review Conference for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the United States, United Kingdom and Canada on 22 May refused to accept text on the Middle East contained in the president’s draft outcome document covering nuclear weapons, energy, safety and security issues. They were heavily criticized for blocking, especially by states that also considered the document to be fundamentally inadequate following removal of most if not all humanitarian and disarmament commitments. For the sake of the NPT, however, the majority had decided to accept the efforts of the conference president, Ambassador Taous Feroukhi of Algeria, recognising the pressure exerted by the nuclear-armed states to strike out all controversial references, including nuclear disarmament objectives and steps put forward by an overwhelming majority of nuclear free nations.
Thus it was that after three years of meetings and four intensive weeks of talks at the United Nations, the failure came down to three states’ refusal to compromise on the organization and timeline for another proposed conference to rid the Middle East of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD), as mandated in 1995, given practical agreement in 2010, and still undelivered.