Iran deal could encourage nuclear disarmament, says Flanagan

Minister urges UN conference to establish measures to dismantle nuclear weapons

The proposed deal aimed at stopping Iran building a nuclear bomb would be "a significant achievement" to encourage countries to dismantle weapons under a 45-year-old disarmament pact, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said.

Speaking to a United Nations conference in New York reviewing the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Mr Flanagan said that the Irish Government strongly hopes that the framework deal recently agreed on Iran's nuclear programme would be confirmed by all parties.

Under the April 3rd draft agreement, hailed by President Barack Obama as "a historic understanding," Iran will reduce its uranium enrichment capacity in return for a phased relief in economic sanctions.

The proposed deal is the fruit of the so-called "P5+1" negotiations between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the US, UK, France, China and Russia, plus Germany, and Iran.


The agreement, which would curb Iran’s nuclear programme if confirmed in further negotiations by an end-of-June deadline, would “add to the impetus for urgent discussions about effective measures for eliminating the nuclear weapons still in existence,” said Mr Flanagan.

The Minister told the conference that measures were required in order to start dismantling nuclear weapons under the 1970 treaty that Ireland helped negotiate and which 190 nations have signed up to.

“We are at a crossroads. We need to acknowledge that not a single nuclear weapon has been disarmed under the NPT or as part of any multilateral process, and that there are no structures in place for this to happen,” he said.

“If the treaty is to retain legitimacy, then the effective measures it requires for disarmament must be put in place before the treaty’s 50th anniversary in 2020.”

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is meeting US secretary of state John Kerry on the sidelines of the UN non-nuclear proliferation conference. This is their first meeting since the draft deal was reached as they try to conclude a final deal by June 30th.

Ireland has a strong associations at the United Nations with measures to curb the development of nuclear weapons.

In 1958, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank Aiken introduced the first in a series of UN resolutions that called for measures to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. This culminated in the adoption in 1961 of the so-called "Irish Resolution" that paved the way for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty nine years later.

Ireland has organised an event at this year’s conference to study the disproportionate effect of nuclear weapon detonation on women and the need for the greater role for women in the debate on the weapons.

“For every two men who die of cancer due to exposure to radiation as a consequence of a nuclear weapon detonation, three women will die,” Mr Flanagan told the conference.

“The disportionate effect on children is even greater and is highest for female children.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent