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UN Security Council affirms support for nuclear test-ban treaty

Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, addresses the General

Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, addresses the General Debate of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. Credit: EPA / Justin Lane

UNITED NATIONS — In a flurry of diplomatic ups and downs Friday, the UN Security Council passed a resolution in support of a treaty banning nuclear tests and world powers renewed pledges to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. But Syria’s war raged on as the United States and Russia were at an impasse in fruitless talks.

The developments occurred throughout the fourth day of the General Debate, which marks the start of a new year of diplomacy at the General Assembly.

The 15-member Security Council overwhelmingly affirmed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty — an assertive stance in the same month that North Korea has conducted a nuclear test and launched a ballistic missile toward Japan. There were 14 votes in favor of the resolution, with one abstention, by Egypt.

The document, introduced 20 years ago, augments the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which aims to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether.

A ban on testing would “constitute an effective nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation measure that would contribute to the achievement of a world without nuclear weapons,” the resolution says.

“My friends, our affirmative vote here is a sign of our unwavering commitment to a safer world in which nuclear technology is used solely for peaceful purposes and the risk of nuclear conflict is no more,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

The United States is among several nations with nuclear technology that have not ratified the treaty, and must take that step to put it in force.

“This resolution is timely . . . because it comes at a time where [North Korea] has reminded the international community of the absolute necessity to get this treaty into force, by having the moratorium on nuclear testing strong and sealed,” said Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

The resolution followed deliberations on the Middle East in which Kerry participated as part of the Quartet, which met to restart long-stalled talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Members of the group — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the UN — agreed to work to “create the conditions for the resumption of meaningful negotiations that will end the occupation that began in 1967 and resolve all final status issues,” including the status of refugees, the borders that the two nations would share and security arrangements.

The pledge came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas blamed each other for deteriorating conditions on the ground that have further put off any meaningful talks toward a two-state solution.

Despite consensus in the Quartet meeting, Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, held opposing positions on the conflict in Syria. Lavrov called a renewed cease-fire “senseless” if opposition groups cannot be separated from terrorists, responding to Kerry’s advocacy of a ban on aircraft in order to resume humanitarian deliveries.

Both men acknowledged dim prospects for an end to the fighting, which started again after a humanitarian convoy was struck Monday, killing aid workers, and dozens of Syrian soldiers were killed in a Sept. 17 strike by the U.S.-led coalition.

In a briefing, Lavrov questioned whether the strike on Syrian soldiers was a mistake and called for a compete investigation into it, despite the United States’ apology over the incident.


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