German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas pointed to “extremely dangerous” setbacks in the push to reduce the globe’s nuclear weapons arsenal as he headed to Jordan on Wednesday to discuss the issue at an international conference.
“International weapons control has not been strengthened but rather weakened in the past few years by varying influences and developments.
“This is particularly true in the field of nuclear disarmament,” Maas said in a statement ahead of his departure.
“I consider this trend to be extremely dangerous,” he said, adding that Europe’s own security depended on “disarmament and a world free of nuclear weapons.”
Germany’s top diplomat is attending the third ministerial conference of the Stockholm Initiative, which unites 16 countries in their efforts to promote nuclear disarmament.
Aside from Maas, only the foreign ministers of Jordan and Sweden are to take part physically in the conference, with representatives from the other 13 states joining via video link.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is also scheduled to participate and give a speech, according to Jordan’s Petra news agency.
The meeting comes just weeks before the New START treaty between the U.S. and Russia, designed to reduce the use of strategic nuclear weapons, runs out in February, without a follow-up.
In addition, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons comes into force on Jan. 22, although major nuclear powers and NATO members have so far rejected it, arguing that the existing treaties merely limiting the use of nuclear weapons are sufficient.
“In 2021, a decisive course will be set for disarmament: the future of important agreements such as New START and the JCPoA are at stake,” Maas said.
The latter refers to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.
U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew his country from that landmark agreement in 2018 and reimposed tough sanctions on Iran.
On Monday, in spite years-long European efforts to salvage the deal, Iran announced it had begun enriching uranium up to 20 per cent, far outside the 3.67 per cent limit set in the 2015 accord with world powers.
Maas pointed out that Joe Biden will succeed Trump as president this month, which could usher in a realignment of ties between Moscow and Washington.
The trip abroad will be Maas’ first in four months.
The other member states of the Stockholm Initiative are Argentina, Ethiopia, Finland, Canada, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Spain and South Korea.