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Nuclear arms Switzerland calls for nuclear-free world

Burkhalter says states should focus on the progressive reduction of nuclear-related risks as a priority

(Keystone)

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has called for an “ambitious and pragmatic” approach to eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide at the opening of a United Nations conference in New York.

The month-long meeting is taking stock of the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed by 189 states.

In his speech, Burkhalter said current “global power shifts, geopolitical tensions, and regional instabilities… should not be an excuse for inaction” on disarmament.

The Swiss minister said the total elimination of nuclear weapons was not possible overnight but as an initial urgent step states should focus on the progressive reduction of nuclear-related risks.

“Nuclear-armed states should reduce the operational readiness of their weapons and lengthen decision times,” said Burkhalter.

He went on to stress that the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty had still not entered into force and negotiations on a treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material had yet to commence.

“Switzerland proposes that nuclear-armed states should limit the role of nuclear weapons to the sole purpose of deterring the use of nuclear weapons by other states,” said the Swiss minister.

Iran programme

He also welcomed the ‘Joint Statement of Lausanne’ on Iran’s nuclear programme, drawn up after marathon talks in the Swiss city in April.

“We encourage the parties to conclude a comprehensive long-term settlement which would constitute a real success for non-proliferation. And we stand ready to provide our good services for further negotiations,” said Burkhalter.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York on Monday, their first face-to-face encounter since the Lausanne talks.

They discussed efforts to secure a final agreement between Iran and the six powers by a June 30 deadline.

"We are, in fact, closer than ever to the good, comprehensive deal that we have been seeking, and if we can get there, the entire world will be safer," Kerry told the 191 NPT parties, adding that bringing Iran back into compliance with the pact was always at the heart of negotiations with Tehran.

"If finalised and implemented, [an agreement] will close off all of Iran's possible pathways to the nuclear material required for a nuclear weapon and give the international community the confidence it needs to know that Iran's nuclear programme is indeed exclusively peaceful," he said.

Kerry added, however, that "the hard work is far from over and some key issues remain unresolved".

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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