World is ‘closer than ever’ to Iran nu­clear deal, says Kerry

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY CARA ANNA

The world is “closer than ever” to reach­ing a com­pre­hen­sive nu­clear deal with Iran but the work is far from over, with key is­sues un­re­solved, Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry on Mon­day told a global gath­er­ing on nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment, where he and Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter met on the side­lines.

Sev­eral of the world’s nu­clear pow­ers over the month ahead will dis­cuss progress on a land­mark treaty on dis­ar­ma­ment, with Is­rael at­tend­ing for the first time in two decades as an ob­server.

Diplo­mats said the on­go­ing Iran dis­cus­sions are sep­a­rate from the Nu­clear Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty, or NPT, re­view con­fer­ence, which is tasked with set­ting a path to the elim­i­na­tion of the es­ti­mated 16,000 nu­clear weapons in the world to­day.

Im­me­di­ate con­cerns at the con­fer­ence in­clude the lack of progress in dis­ar­ma­ment by the United States and Rus­sia, who be­tween them hold more than 90 per­cent of those weapons. Civil so­ci­ety groups say nu­clear pow­ers are spend­ing bil­lions of dol­lars to in­stead mod­ern­ize their ar­se­nals. The United States says it is “main­tain­ing and ser­vic­ing” in­stead.

Few break­throughs are ex­pected at the con­fer­ence as diplo­mats warn of Cold War- style ten­sions over Ukraine and other is­sues. “I know as well as any­one that we have a long way to go” on the path to a nu­clear- free world, Kerry said, ac­knowl­edg­ing that “we know that we can cut back even fur­ther.”

Kerry was meet­ing with Iran’s For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif for the first time since world pow­ers and Iran sealed a frame­work agree­ment on April 2 that would limit Iran’s abil­ity to build a nu­clear weapon. They face a dead­line of June 30 for a com­pre­hen­sive ac­cord.

Zarif re­peated t he Non­Aligned Move­ment’s call for Is­rael to give up its nu­clear weapons. Is­rael has never pub­licly de­clared any nu­clear weapons in its pos­ses­sion.

Is­rael sur­prised at­ten­dees with its ap­pear­ance as an ob­server, but since it is not a party to the treaty, it won’t be speak­ing.

When asked whether he would be meet­ing with Is­rael, the head of the U. N.’ s In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency, Yukiya Amano, said, “I don’t know yet.”

Mean­while, the Pales­tini­ans marked their first con­fer­ence as a state party to the treaty.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon set the tone Mon­day with urg­ing real progress to­ward the elim­i­na­tion of nu­clear weapons, say­ing that with­out it, the ac­tion plan the con­fer­ence agreed on in its last meet­ing five years ago “could risk fad­ing in rel­e­vance.”

Both Ban and the IAEA chief, as well as Ja­pan and South Korea, ex­pressed con­cern on an­other press­ing is­sue at the con­fer­ence: North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram and the lack of talks to ad­dress it.

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