Iran insists Israel ‘give up the bomb’ as Tehran seeks nuclear-free Middle East
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif delivers an address to the Opening Meeting of the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) at United Nations headquarters in New York, April 27, 2015. (Reuters / Mike Segar)
Iran has demanded that Israel give up its “nuclear weapons”, as it spoke on behalf of the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement. Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif said the bloc also wants a nuclear free-zone in the Middle East.
Mohammad Javad Zarif was speaking at the United Nations for the non-aligned group of countries. Israel has never admitted or denied the widespread assumption it has nuclear weapons. However, Zarif says Israel’s assumed nuclear arsenal was a threat to regional security.
The Iranian Foreign Minister said the non-aligned movement regards Israel’s nuclear program as, “a serious and continuing threat to the security of neighboring and other states, and condemned Israel for continuing to develop and stockpile nuclear arsenals,” according to Reuters.
Israel has not signed up to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), though it has sent an observer to the month long conference for the first time in 20 years.
Zarif added that the non-aligned bloc are looking to create a nuclear free-zone in the Middle East “as a matter of high priority,” which will only be possible, if Israel abandons its nuclear stockpile.
“Israel, [is] the only one in the region that has neither joined the NPT nor declared its intention to do so, (…) renounce possession of nuclear weapons,”AFP cited Zarif as saying.
The plan to create a nuclear free Middle East was agreed at the previous conference in 2010, but steps were never taken to ensure it was enforced.
Iran has been accused on numerous occasions by the West of trying to develop a nuclear weapon, a charge that Tehran has repeatedly denied. The country says its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes. Iran recently agreed on a framework deal concerning its nuclear interests with the P5+1 group in Switzerland, which would pave the way for it to be finalized in the summer.
However, Israel was highly critical of the move. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that it “would not block Iran’s path to the bomb. It would pave it.”
During the conference, Tehran also demanded that countries who possessed nuclear weapons should not seek to modernize their weapons stockpiles.
“We call upon the nuclear-weapon states to immediately cease their plans to further invest in modernizing and extending the life span of their nuclear weapons and related facilities,” Zarif said.
The head of the UN, Ban Ki-moon singled out the US and Russia for criticism for failing to advance their nuclear disarmament. He added this was a setback that marked a return to a Cold War mindset. He added that a nuclear free world was a “historic imperative of our time.”
“I am deeply concerned that over the last five years this process seems to have stalled,” the UN leader said, AFP reported.
In an apparent attempt to deflect criticism, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States wants to “leave the race for nuclear arms in the past.”
“I am pleased to announce today that President Obama has decided that the United States will seek to accelerate the dismantling of retired nuclear warheads by 20 percent,” Kerry said.
Meanwhile Russia is fully open to a serious dialogue on nuclear disarmament, but it must be without any “double standards,” said the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Weapons Control, Mikhail Ulyanov.
“[Russia] is firmly committed to nuclear disarmament,” he said. “Clear evidence of that is the consistent implementation of the Russian-American New START treaty.”
The NPT came into force in 1970 and has seen a drastic cut in the number of nuclear weapons. However, UN officials believe that more can be done to reduce these stockpiles further.
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Iran’s foreign minister says the use of nuclear weapons or even the threat of use of such weapons is a crime against humanity.
Mohammad Javad Zarif made the remarks while addressing the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in New York on Monday.
“We firmly believe that any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would be a crime against humanity and a violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, in particular, international humanitarian law,” he said.
The Iranian foreign minister made a strong call for “the complete exclusion” of the use or threat of use of the nuclear weapons from military doctrines.
“We express our dissatisfaction over the lack of required political will and effort by the nuclear weapons states to fully address the legitimate interest of all non-nuclear-weapon states parties to the treaty to receive unconditional and legally-binding security assurances against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under all circumstances pending their elimination,” he said.
Referring to a recent summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran, Zarif said heads of state taking part in the summit lent their support to creation of a zone free from nuclear weapons and other forms of the weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East while asking immediate accession to the NPT by all countries, which should bring their nuclear activities under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
He added that the NAM heads of state also expressed their concern about the activities of the Zionist regime of Israel, which pose a serious threat to neighboring countries in the Middle East, condemning that regime for the production of nuclear weapons.
Zarif, who was also speaking on behalf of the NAM, said the bloc considers nuclear disarmament as its “highest priority” and reiterates that “the existence of nuclear weapons poses the greatest threat to humanity.”
“The continued lack of progress in the implementation of nuclear disarmament obligations and commitments by the nuclear weapons states could undermine the objects and purposes of the [Non-Proliferation] Treaty and the credibility of the non-proliferation regime,” he said.
The Iranian foreign minister further stated that the implementation of the Plan of Action adopted by the NPT Review Conference in 2010 with regard to nuclear weapons, nonproliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy is deplorable.
He added that to realize the goals of the treaty and to bolster international peace and security, the contents of the NPT should be implemented in full, without discrimination and in a balanced manner.
Zarif also emphasized the role of the treaty as “the essential foundation for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation as well as for promoting international cooperation and assistance in support of the inalienable right of the state parties to peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
The Iranian foreign minister further criticized the countries that possess nuclear weapons for not making any progress in eliminating their nuclear arsenals.
“The role of nuclear weapons in their security policy has not diminished. Some are modernizing their nuclear arsenals and planning research on new warheads; others have announced their intention to develop new delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons,” Zarif said.
Zarif further expressed “deep concerned” by the military and security doctrine of nuclear weapons states as well as that of NATO, saying, “They justify their use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and maintain the irrational concept of security based on nuclear deterrence and nuclear military alliances.”
The Iranian foreign minister further called for “a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention which would include a phased program and a specified timeframe for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons,” adding that he has put forward a working paper entitled “Elements for a Plan of Action for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.”
Zarif said proliferation concerns are best addressed through “multilaterally negotiated, universal, comprehensive and nondiscriminatory agreements,” stressing that “additional measures related to safeguards shall not affect the rights of the non-nuclear states parties to the treaty.”
“Each state party in line with its national requirements and in accordance with the rights and obligations under the treaty has a sovereign right to define its national energy and fuel cycle policies including their inalienable right to develop for peaceful purposes a full national nuclear fuel cycle. Accordingly, the choices and decisions of each state party in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy should be fully respected,” he said.
“We strongly reject and call for the immediate removal of any restriction or limitations on the peaceful use of nuclear energy including restrictions on export to other state parties of nuclear material, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes”.
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