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More work needed ahead of 2020 NPT treaty review: envoy

In this April 2, 2019 photo, Izumi Nakamitsu, U.N. under-secretary general and high representative for disarmament affairs, speaks to Security Council members during a meeting to discuss the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at its headquarters in New York. (Kyodo)

NEW YORK (Kyodo) -- More work needs to be done to lay the groundwork for a successful 2020 review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the chairman of the preparatory session now in progress said Wednesday.

"We have a lot of work to do, especially since next year is the 50th anniversary of the NPT," Malaysian Ambassador Syed Mohamad Hasrin Aidid told the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the sidelines of the session that began Monday and ends May 10.

Next year also marks the 75th anniversary since the first atomic weapons were used, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, potentially putting more pressure on attendees to agree a consensus document.

At the five-year review conferences, achieving consensus has been elusive at times. Most recently, in 2015, divisions over a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East could not be overcome.

The chairman also highlighted the importance of procedural issues, such as agreeing an agenda and program of work, to make next year's meeting as productive as possible. By addressing those issues in the current session, he suggested extra time could be devoted to more substantive issues in 2020.

"It is not going to be easy because of the situation, but it is my intention to work very hard towards a consensus document, but if that is not possible then at least the outcome document should be a meaningful one," he added.

"As preparation for the review conference we should review everything -- the success(es) and failure(s) -- so that we can move forward."

One main issue of contention is the perception among non-nuclear possessor states that those with nuclear arms -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- have not kept up their end of the bargain in promising to reduce their arsenals so that other states would not acquire such weapons.

Part of a growing frustration about the lack of progress led a majority of countries to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, in 2017. Backed by 122 countries, it was the first legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading to their elimination.

So far 23 countries have ratified it, but the threshold of 50 has yet to be met.

In his conversations with Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue and Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, Aidid stressed how important mayors and other members of civil society were in raising awareness about the humanitarian consequences of the atomic bombs.

"Even for me, I have seen documentaries about the effect of the A-bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but listening to one hibakusha it has a different feeling, so you have to keep continuing this so that the message will be spread all around, to transcend boundaries.

"There are certain things that nation states can do, but I think civil society can reach further."

The Japanese word "hibakusha" is used to describe those who were exposed to fallout from the atomic bombs.

Earlier, Aidid met atomic bomb survivors Jiro Hamasumi and Sueichi Kido for the first time, after they delivered an antinuke petition signed by more than 9 million people.

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