The Guardian today reports that Britain will not attend an international conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, ministers will tell the Commons on Wednesday.
The decision will anger MPs across the political spectrum who say Britain should participate in the conference, due to be held in Mexico on Thursday.
“We should be there. I cannot understand why we are not [going]“, said James Arbuthnot, Conservative chairman of the Commons defence committee and a former defence minister.
Sir Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat MP and former armed forces minister, said the British refusal to attend the conference was a “disgrace”. He sharply attacked the government’s refusal to attend another conference last year in Oslo on the consequences of a nuclear conflict.
Des Browne and Michael Shank published the op-ed ‘Time to write the rules for cyber and drone challenges’ on CNN on 3 February 2014. The full article is available here.
Iran has begun implementing the Joint Plan of Action over its nuclear program. The United States and Russia are cooperating in the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. And the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded late last year to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for its “extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.” The past few months have clearly underscored what can be achieved when the international community works together on weapons of mass destruction.
But while the response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons and Iran is laudable and should now be leveraged to strengthen international law, treaties and monitoring mechanisms more broadly, the reality is that newer challenges are evolving even as the international community works to get a handle on longstanding threats. And although these threats come in a variety of forms, there are two in particular that will require the same kind of concerted effort.
British Notables Support the Provisional Iran Accord
The plan is a step toward a negotiated solution to the problems raised by Iran’s nuclear program and a step away from the risks of a further conflict in the Middle East
We strongly welcome and support the agreement with Iran reached in November and the recently announced implementation of the Joint Plan of Action (“Iranian Nuclear Accord Advances,” page one, Jan. 13). The plan is a step toward a negotiated solution to the problems raised by Iran’s nuclear program and a step away from the risks of a further conflict in the Middle East, which would be seriously damaging to all.
We trust that all parties will now work expeditiously and in good faith to reach a comprehensive deal that will secure a credible and verifiable set of arrangements for the civil nuclear industry in Iran precluding any capacity or intention to develop a nuclear-weapons program. While that negotiation is under way, we urge that no steps be taken either by Iran or by the other parties to the interim agreement that might jeopardize a successful outcome.
We recognize and respect Israel’s security concerns as well as those of other countries in the region, but we believe that those concerns will best be met by international arrangements that are consistent with Iran’s rights and obligations as a nonnuclear weapon state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and over time, by the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
Des Browne, Former U.K. defense secretary
Top Level Group of U.K. Parliamentarians for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation
London (Also signing the letter: John Stanley, Alistair Burt, Nick Harvey, Margaret Beckett, Bob Ainsworth, Menzies Campbell, David Hannay, Mike Boyce, Charles Guthrie, Douglas Hurd, John Kerr, Tom King, David Owen and David Ramsbotham.)
Today, in a statement published by the European Leadership Network (ELN), 70 former European Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers, Defence Ministers, diplomats and military figures urge current leaders to get beyond recent divisions on Ukraine – and the zero-sum Cold War logic they reflect – and to start a new process of Euro-Atlantic trust-building and politically mandated security dialogue.
The statement is published in time for this week’s EU Council meeting. At that meeting, the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) will be discussed by national leaders for the first time since 2008 but there will be little or no discussion of the remaining deep security tensions and divisions within Europe itself. This is a missed opportunity. The status quo increases security risks on the continent, reduces the ability of all Europeans to work together to meet common external threats, fosters mistrust, and costs European tax-payers heavily in extra spending on defence at a time when economic and social pressures are huge.
British signatories include James Arbuthnot, Margaret Beckett, Des Browne, Alistair Burt, Menzies Campbell, David Hannay, Nick Harvey, Geoffrey Howe, Douglas Hurd, John Kerr, John McColl, David Owen, John Stanley, Tom King, Alan West, and Shirley Williams.