Statement by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the United Nations Security Council - “Supporting the Non-Proliferation Treaty ahead of the 2020 Review Conference”

26.02.2020 - Speech
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the United Nations Security Council
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the United Nations Security Council© Thomas Trutschel /photothek.net

Three months ago, I visited Hiroshima.

I stood in the vast empty space that was created by the explosion 75 years ago. I saw the ruined buildings. I talked to survivors.

One of them said to me: “We have the means to destroy our own civilisation.” And: “What happened once can happen again.” The truth that lies in these words led our predecessors to create the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This year, we are commemorating its 50th anniversary.

But commemoration is not enough. Despite its valued achievements, the NPT is facing serious setbacks: Nuclear disarmament has come to a standstill. New technologies are creating dangerous strategic imbalances. And proliferation crises are demanding our fullest attention.

North Korea has acquired nuclear weapons – in complete disregard of the NPT and numerous Security Council resolutions. What message does that send about the credibility of our own decisions?

The only realistic way forward is a two-track approach: pressure on the one hand and diplomatic engagement on the other.

We should stand united in supporting US efforts to conduct serious negotiations with North Korea. At the same time, as chair of the sanctions committee, Germany will ensure that sanctions are fully and duly implemented.

Full implementation of its obligations is also what we expect from Iran. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action remains the best and the only promising tool to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Europe is playing its part to uphold it. But Iran needs to do the same and return to full compliance without further delay.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Yesterday, colleagues from 16 states, supporters of the Stockholm Initiative on Nuclear Disarmament, met in Berlin. Like the overwhelming majority of the international community, we are convinced that the time to revive disarmament diplomacy is now. In Berlin, we adopted a political declaration, underpinned by concrete stepping stones. Some of those steps can only be taken by nuclear-weapon States. Others concern all of us. They are a call to put our political differences aside and take our obligations seriously.

Firstly, we propose a set of practical measures to avoid misperceptions, reduce nuclear risks and rebuild trust. These include: greater transparency on nuclear arsenals; crisis-proof communication lines; and an open dialogue on strategic stability and nuclear doctrines. And this dialogue should involve non-nuclear weapon States.

Secondly, we are focusing on verification. In 2019, we conducted a comprehensive practical exercise together with France. It showed how non-nuclear weapon States can participate in verification without gaining knowledge about the nuclear device. More work on this should follow.

Thirdly, we are joining forces to protect and enhance our crumbling arms control architecture. We call on Russia and the United States to show leadership by extending New START. That agreement remains crucial, as it underpins the commitment of the biggest nuclear powers to Article VI.

On fissile material, it is high time that we start negotiations on a treaty that prohibits its production for use in nuclear weapons.

Finally, all States that have not signed and ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty must do so. As one of the current coordinators, we will spare no effort towards this end.

Esteemed colleagues,
When we signed the NPT, we all subscribed to its ultimate goal. We must attain a world without nuclear weapons.

No place on earth makes this clearer than Hiroshima.

And no one bears greater responsibility than the members of this Council.

Thank you very much.


Top of page