The 191 nations signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have agreed to postpone the conference reviewing its application due to the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations reported.

The treaty is seen as the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the parties meet every five years to discuss their status. The conference was scheduled for April 27 to May 22 at the UN headquarters in New York.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the conference will be held “as soon as circumstances permit, but in April 2021 at the latest.”

The UN said days ago that the postponement was likely, but that the conference’s appointed president, Argentine Ambassador Gustavo Zlauvinen, wanted to consult governments.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which marked its 50th anniversary on March 5, is attributed to having prevented dozens of nations from acquiring the nuclear weapon. The great global agreement is that nations without nuclear weapons agree not to acquire it; Those who own it agree to take steps to eliminate it, and everyone has the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The signatories are all countries except India, Pakistan and North Korea, which possess nuclear weapons, and Israel, which is believed to possess them, but has never recognized it.

Members try to address issues, not by updating the treaty, which is difficult, but by a final document approved by consensus with measures outside the treaty to further its ends. This too has been difficult in recent conferences.

UN chief disarmament Izumi Nakamitsu warned weeks ago that the specter of a nuclear arms race threatens the world for the first time since the 1970s, when the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union was at its peak.

He did not name countries, but evidently he was referring to the United States, Russia, and possibly China when he said in the Security Council that “relations between states – especially states with nuclear weapons – are fractured.”

“Competition between so-called great powers is the order of the day,” said Nakamitsu.

Russian-American relations are at their most tense after the Cold War since Moscow snatched the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

Russia and the United States clashed at that Security Council meeting, but supported a statement that the treaty “remains the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the foundation of efforts for nuclear disarmament and the peaceful employment of the nuclear energy”.

The council resolved to advance the purposes of the treaty and highlighted its essential role in “preserving international peace, security and stability, as well as the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

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