As the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) edges ever closer to becoming international law, it has just received a huge and significant endorsement. Fifty-six former presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and defence ministers from 20 NATO member states, as well as from Japan and South Korea, have just issued an open letter calling on their current governments to join the Treaty. All of these states are so-called “umbrella states” that currently claim protection from US nuclear weapons and have not yet joined the Treaty – so the letter does not involve the actual nuclear-weapon states like the UK. The letter will be sent to the current leaders of these 20 states. The co-signers include the former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and two former NATO Secretaries-General, Javier Solana and Willy Claes.

In their letter the former leaders say:

It is not difficult to foresee how the bellicose rhetoric and poor judgment of leaders in nuclear-armed nations might result in a calamity affecting all nations and peoples. As past leaders, foreign ministers and defence ministers of Albania, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain and Turkey — all countries that claim protection from an ally’s nuclear weapons — we appeal to current leaders to advance disarmament before it is too late. . .

By claiming protection from nuclear weapons, we are promoting the dangerous and misguided belief that nuclear weapons enhance security. Rather than enabling progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons, we are impeding it and perpetuating nuclear dangers — all for fear of upsetting our allies who cling to these weapons of mass destruction.”

Janet Fenton, ICAN liaison in Scotland said:

Signing the TPNW does not hinder or prevent any UN member state from entering or remaining in any military co operation or alliance that alliance they wish, it just prohibits them from participating in nuclear weapons preparations assistance or activities. NATO and the nuclear armed states are very aware that the TPNW, far from conflicting with the NPT as they suggest, is already changing the norm around nuclear weapons through divestment and increased understanding of the global humanitarian consequences of their use. Thus the TPNW provides the much-needed legal instrument that will ensure that the nuclear-armed states comply with its disarmament obligations. That is why the US, France, the UK and NATO are exerting so much pressure to maintain control of these governments, their last remaining supporters.“

Huge credit is due to ICAN Australia’s Gem Romuld for her work behind the scenes on this project.

Full text of letter here

Article in New York Times here

The 56 co-signers of the open letter in support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons are:

Lloyd Axworthy, former foreign minister of Canada

Ban Ki-moon, former UN secretary-general and foreign minister of South Korea

Jean-Jacques Blais, former defence minister of Canada

Kjell Magne Bondevik, former prime minister and foreign minister of Norway

Ylli Bufi, former prime minister of Albania

Jean Chrétien, former prime minister of Canada

Willy Claes, former NATO secretary-general and foreign minister of Belgium

Erik Derycke, former foreign minister of Belgium

Joschka Fischer, former foreign minister of Germany

Franco Frattini, former foreign minister of Italy

Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, former foreign minister of Iceland

Bjørn Tore Godal, former foreign minister and defence minister of Norway

Bill Graham, former foreign minister and defence minister of Canada

Hatoyama Yukio, former prime minister of Japan

Thorbjørn Jagland, former prime minister and foreign minister of Norway

Ljubica Jelušič, former defence minister of Slovenia

Tālavs Jundzis, former defence minister of Latvia

Jan Kavan, former foreign minister of the Czech Republic

Alojz Krapež, former defence minister of Slovenia

Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, former foreign minister and defence minister of Latvia

Aleksander Kwaśniewski, former president of Poland

Yves Leterme, former prime minister and foreign minister of Belgium

Enrico Letta, former prime minister of Italy

Eldbjørg Løwer, former defence minister of Norway

Mogens Lykketoft, former foreign minister of Denmark

John Mccallum, former defence minister of Canada

John Manley, former foreign minister of Canada

Rexhep Meidani, former president of Albania

Zdravko Mršić, former foreign minister of Croatia

Linda Mūrniece, former defence minister of Latvia

Fatos Nano, former prime minister of Albania

Holger K. Nielsen, former foreign minister of Denmark

Andrzej Olechowski, former foreign minister of Poland

Kjeld Olesen, former foreign minister and defence minister of Denmark

Ana Palacio, former foreign minister of Spain

Theodoros Pangalos, former foreign minister of Greece

Jan Pronk, former defence minister (ad interim) of the Netherlands

Vesna Pusić, former foreign minister of Croatia

Dariusz Rosati, former foreign minister of Poland

Rudolf Scharping, former defence minister of Germany

Juraj Schenk, former foreign minister of Slovakia

Nuno Severiano Teixeira, former defence minister of Portugal

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, former prime minister of Iceland

Össur Skarphéðinsson, former foreign minister of Iceland

Javier Solana, former NATO secretary-general and foreign minister of Spain

Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, former defence minister of Norway

Hanna Suchocka, former prime minister of Poland

Szekeres Imre, former defence minister of Hungary

Tanaka Makiko, former foreign minister of Japan

Tanaka Naoki, former defence minister of Japan

Danilo Türk, former president of Slovenia

Hikmet Sami Türk, former defence minister of Turkey

The late John N. Turner, former prime minister of Canada*

Guy Verhofstadt, former prime minister of Belgium

Knut Vollebæk, former foreign minister of Norway

Carlos Westendorp y Cabeza, former foreign minister of Spain

* ICAN would like to extend our condolences to the family of former Canadian prime minister John Turner, who passed away on 19 September 2020. 

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