UNITED NATIONS -- Delegates from more than 80 countries kicked off a second and possibly final round of negotiations Thursday on an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons, seeking to adopt a final text by the July 7 end of the conference.
"As we enter this final phase of the conference, I am confident that with the necessary political will, we can achieve the goal" to complete, "as soon as possible, a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons leading toward their total elimination," said Elayne Whyte Gomez, chair of the conference, as the meeting began.
The second round of negotiations will delve into the substance of the draft text. Besides delegates, the morning session also drew nongovernmental proponents of a ban and at least one atomic bomb survivor. All seek to add nuclear arms to the ranks of such other proscribed items as chemical and biological weapons, cluster munitions, and land mines.
"Everyone represents their country, but [we are] united together in the historic commitment that we recognize that we have ... convinced as we are of the moral imperative that brings us here," said Whyte, who serves as the Costa Rican ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva.
Neither the U.S. nor any other nuclear power is taking part in the conference. At the start of the first round of negotiations in March, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters here that she wanted nothing more for her family than a world without nuclear weapons. "But we have to be realistic," she said.
Impasse on arms reduction
"These talks are truly historic, as they represent the most significant negotiations in the area of nuclear disarmament," said Izumi Nakamitsu, the U.N.'s high representative for disarmament affairs, in prepared remarks to the conference.
Nakamitsu noted the virtual impasse on multilateral disarmament efforts, lamenting that despite the clear need for progress, "there seem to be no near-term prospects for further reductions."
Even with blocked international initiatives and active efforts by some nuclear powers to improve and modernize their arsenals in a troubled security environment, she said that "it is important to recall that measures for disarmament have served historically as a means to ease international tensions and to prevent conflict."
A well-crafted text could make "an important contribution to the advancement of nuclear disarmament," she suggested.