The danger of nuclear weapons: President Cassis calls for concrete measures in New York

Bern, 02.08.2022 - President of the Confederation Ignazio Cassis took part on 2 August 2022 in the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in New York. In his speech, Mr Cassis emphasised that Russia's nuclear threats illustrated the need for a package of measures to reduce nuclear risks. Recent developments in Ukraine have also shown that civilian nuclear facilities must be protected in situations of armed conflict. Switzerland thus wants to ensure nuclear safety and security and give new impetus to nuclear disarmament. The Conference will end on 26 August.

"Switzerland wants to see a world free of nuclear weapons," said President of the Confederation Ignazio Cassis, speaking at the Review Conference of the 191 parties to the NPT on 2 August 2022. "The consequences of the use of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic." Mr Cassis noted that any use of a nuclear weapon would violate the 75-year-old nuclear taboo that has existed since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and would risk a nuclear escalation. That is why Switzerland aims to bring momentum to stalled nuclear disarmament processes. In view of this, Mr Cassis called on the Conference to send a signal that nuclear weapons must never be used again: “This conference must set the course for an urgently needed change: to reduce the role of nuclear weapons, to reduce the likelihood of a nuclear accident or usage as a result of a misunderstanding. Words must be complemented by concrete action to avert humanitarian and environmental disasters.”

Measures to reduce nuclear threats

In the lead up to the Conference, Switzerland was the driving force behind a package of measures – supported by around 30 states – that aims to reduce nuclear risk and to make the world more resilient in times of crisis. Such measures include crisis communication hotlines and other channels that help prevent unintentional escalation.

Switzerland attaches a key priority to nuclear disarmament and the prevention of nuclear proliferation since peace and security are priorities of its foreign policy. Switzerland wants to play the role of a bridge builder, striving for viable solutions and constructive dialogue. In this way, Switzerland contributes to a more secure world. It is committed to ensuring that compliance with international humanitarian law takes precedence over political or military might.

Safety and security of nuclear facilities in conflict regions

The safety and security of civil nuclear power facilities in conflict regions is a key issue for Mr Cassis. The Russian aggression against Ukraine has illustrated the dangers in this area. Switzerland is working with a number of other states, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure that fundamental security standards are observed. These rules are to be followed in any situation – including armed conflict – to prevent catastrophic consequences of nuclear incidents. This was emphasised by the President of the Swiss Confederation, Ignazio Cassis, and the Director General of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, at a joint event on the fringes of the Conference.

Respecting the non-proliferation norm

Switzerland wants to ensure that the NPT is effective and can achieve its goals. "We need to address regional challenges and, for example, condemn the DPRK’s continued development of its nuclear programme, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. We also need an immediate return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action by all its parties. And we must support the IAEA’s safeguards system, which is the backbone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime," explained Mr Cassis in New York.

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: Switzerland re-evaluates its position

The outcome of the current NPT Review Conference in New York will be an important aspect in Switzerland's re-evaluation of its position on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). While the NPT prevents a global arms race without restricting the peaceful use of the atom, the TPNW prohibits the development, testing, production, transfer, possession, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. Switzerland is not a party to this new treaty, which entered into force in 2021. For the time being, it is monitoring its further development. This treaty was negotiated without the nuclear powers and is supported only by a part of the international community. In the EU, for example, only three countries are members of the TPNW.  For Switzerland, questions thus remain about its effectiveness. It would be counterproductive if the NPT as a universally recognised instrument for nuclear disarmament were to be hampered by TPNW. In New York, Switzerland is also working towards an outcome of the NPT Review Conference that will lead to positive interaction between the two treaties, since both treaties share the same objective, i.e. achieving a world without nuclear weapons.

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