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Switzerland takes stock of nuclear non-proliferation treaty

Switzerland's delegation at the United Nations conference on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in New York will be taking stock of progress. Switzerland signed the non-proliferation treaty in 1977 making it a full member of the conference.

Switzerland's delegation attending the United Nations conference on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in New York will be taking stock of progress, since the conference was set up in 1970. Switzerland signed the non-proliferation treaty in 1977 making it a full member of the conference.

The Swiss delegation headed by the permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Jenö Staehelin, will mainly be looking back on developments since the last conference in 1995.

The United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, called on the conference delegates to help scrap all the world's nuclear weapons and said that the top five nuclear players still had an arsenal of 35,000 nuclear warheads between them, which could be triggered at any time.

But, besides the chance for the 187 treaty members to analyse past successes and failures of nuclear non-proliferation, there are also a number of pressing issues to be addressed. Matthias Halter, military advisor to the Swiss mission at the UN in New York, said one key problem in particular needed to be addressed.

"The treaty only refers to five nuclear powers," Halter said, "but we know that there are now more. The example of India and Pakistan which are thought to be in possession of nuclear weapons shows us this major problem within the treaty."

There are also expectations that the five declared nuclear powers, the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain, will come under fire for not carrying out their pledge to push ahead with disarmament - a condition of the non-proliferation treaty.

As for Switzerland, this will hardly play a role, according to Halter. "Switzerland has clearly fulfilled its moral obligation in pursuing the disarmament effort," he said.

Although Switzerland is neutral and therefore not a member of military alliances, Halter said this did not diminish his delegation's weight in the conference.

"Neutrality makes no difference," he said. "In fact, Switzerland is even more flexible in expressing its position, than for example members of military alliances."

The conference, which will last another four weeks, is expected to look at the possible inclusion of Israel as a new treaty-member.

swissinfo with agencies


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