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UN chief appeals for end to military activities at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant in Ukraine

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 11: Military activities around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant in Ukraine must stop immediately, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday, warning of the potential danger to the area and beyond amid ongoing shelling.

Europe’s largest nuclear plant has been occupied by Russian forces since March, and last week the external power supply system was damaged in an attack.

“I am calling for all military activities in the immediate vicinity of the plant to cease immediately and not to target its facilities or surroundings,” Guterres said in a statement expressing his grave concern over the unfolding situation.

The Secretary-General recalled his appeal to all parties “to exercise common sense and reason” and not do anything that might endanger the plant’s physical integrity, safety or security.

“Regrettably, instead of de-escalation, over the past several days there have been reports of further deeply worrying incidents that could, if they continue, lead to disaster,” he said.

“I urge the withdrawal of any military personnel and equipment from the plant and the avoidance of any further deployment of forces or equipment to the site. The facility must not be used as part of any military operation. Instead, urgent agreement is needed at a technical level on a safe perimeter of demilitarization to ensure the safety of the area.”

The Secretary-General underlined the UN’s support for the critical work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and its efforts towards ensuring safe operations at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant.

He also urged the parties to provide the agency with immediate, secure and unfettered access to the site.

“We must be clear that any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia or any other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, or anywhere else, could lead to catastrophic consequences not only for the immediate vicinity, but for the region and beyond. This is wholly unacceptable.”

Attacking a nuclear plant 'suicidal', UN chief tells journalists in Japan

TOKYO, Aug 8: UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned a recent attack on a nuclear power station in southern Ukraine during a meeting in Tokyo on Monday with the Japan National Press Club.

“Any attack to nuclear plants is…suicidal,” the UN chief said, adding that he hoped that the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be able to access the plant for inspection.

Both Moscow and Kyiv have denied responsibility for the strike on the Zaporizhzhia plant over the weekend.

While Europe's largest nuclear power site has been under Russian control since the early days of the war, Ukrainian technicians are still running it.

Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear power plant operator, said that Russian shelling damaged three radiation monitors around the storage facility for spent nuclear fuels, in which one worker was injured.

The shelling prompted IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi to warn that the way in which Zaporizhzhia was being run coupled with the fighting around it posed “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster”.

Since then, a preliminary assessment by UN atomic overseer experts found that the safety and security situation seemed stable with no immediate threat, despite that several pillars were breached.

“We support the IAEA on their efforts in relation to create the conditions of stabilization of that plant,” said the UN chief, adding his hope that the IAEA would be able to access the plant.

When asked why a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine had not yet been realized, the UN chief said they had been working very closely with Türkiye, which had “launched a new initiative in relation to a possible start of peace negotiations”.

But he explained that Ukraine cannot accept that “its territory is taken by another country”, and that Russia “does not seem ready to accept” that areas it had taken “will not be annexed by the Russian Federation or give way to new independent States”.

Guterres’ comments followed a visit to Hiroshima over the weekend, where the Secretary-General marked the 77th anniversary of the world's first nuclear attack on 6 August 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people.

Amidst Russian threats of a nuclear attack since it invaded Ukraine in February, fears of a third atomic bombing have grown.

During Monday’s news conference, the UN chief reiterated his warning over the use of nuclear weapons, saying that if used, the UN would probably be unable respond because “we might all not be here anymore”.

Against the backdrop that the world currently has 13,000 nuclear bombs while continuing to make huge investments into modernizing atomic arsenals, Guterres warned that after decades of nuclear disarmament efforts, we are “moving backwards”.

“Stop it,” he appealed, underscoring that the billions of dollars being leveraged into the arms race need to be used in “fighting climate change, fighting poverty, [and] addressing the needs of the international community”.

The Secretary-General will next be traveling to Mongolia and South Korea to discuss ways to address North Korea’s nuclear development.

When asked about China's massive military exercises around Taiwan, Guterres said the UN “abides by a resolution of the General Assembly, the so-called One China policy”.

The dispute was sparked by a visit last week to island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“We all want that resolution to correspond to a peaceful environment,” he said, calling for common sense and restraint to allow for an “extremely important” de-escalation.

From Hiroshima, UN chief calls for global nuclear disarmament

HIROSHIMA, Aug 5: It is totally unacceptable for states in possession of nuclear weapons to admit the possibility of a nuclear war, António Guterres underscored early on Saturday in Japan at a ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

“Nuclear weapons are nonsense. Three-quarters of a century later, we must ask what we’ve learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled above this city in 1945”, he urged during the solemn event at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park attended by dozens of people, including hibakusha, young peace activists, Japan’s Prime Minister and other local authorities.

The UN Secretary-General warned that a new arms race is picking up speed and world leaders are enhancing stockpiles at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars with almost 13,000 nuclear weapons currently held in arsenals around the world.

“…Crises with grave nuclear undertones are spreading fast — from the Middle East to the Korean peninsula, to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine… Humanity is playing with a loaded gun”, he cautioned.

Guterres called the current Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in New York a ‘sign of hope’.

“Today, from this sacred space, I call on this Treaty’s members to work urgently to eliminate the stockpiles that threaten our future, to strengthen dialogue, diplomacy and negotiation, and to support my disarmament agenda by eliminating these devices of destruction”, he emphasized.

He underscored that countries with nuclear weapons must commit to the “no first use” of them, and assure other states that they will not use –or threaten to use—nuclear weapons against them.

“We must keep the horrors of Hiroshima in view at all times, recognizing there is only one solution to the nuclear threat: not to have nuclear weapons at all”, the UN chief stated.

Guterres stressed that leaders cannot hide from their responsibilities.

“Take the nuclear option off the table — for good. It’s time to proliferate peace. Heed the message of the hibakusha: “No more Hiroshimas! No more Nagasakis!”, he said, recognizing that in 1945, two atomic bombs were detonated over the skies of Japan – first in Hiroshima on 6 August, and Nagasaki three days later, on 9 August.

Guterres also sent a message to the young people urging them to finish the work that the hibakusha have begun.

“The world must never forget what happened here. The memory of those who died — and the legacy of those who survived — will never be extinguished”, he concluded.

The UN Secretary-General will be in Japan over the weekend, where he will meet with several Japanese senior officials, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

He will also meet a group of surviving victims of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and participate in a dialogue with young activists who are leading initiatives on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and other global issues.

Later in the day, the Secretary-General met five surviving victims of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as Hibakusha, and heard their stories.

He expressed his admiration for them, acknowledging that they have suffered enormously but have overcome trauma with ‘enormous courage and resilience’.

Guterres also called them an example for the world, and told the three women and two men reunited with him that they have the moral authority to tell leaders that ‘nuclear weapons are nonsense’

“The UN is committed to keeping the memory of what happened alive, and to make sure that your stories echo forever”, he said.

The hibakusha told the UN chief how they have remained engaged in issues of peace and disarmament for most of their lives: for example, one of them wrote a song to raise awareness and another illustrated her experiences in pictures.

They all expressed their desire that young people also understand the crude reality of nuclear weapons.

António Guterres was also part of an informal dialogue session with young Japanese activists currently leading initiatives on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and other global issues.

“I would like to apologize on behalf of my generation for the state of the world we are leaving to your generation”, he said, reiterating an apology he’s made before to the youth worldwide.

He spoke about the current state of the world, including the triple planetary crisis, the raging inequality, and widespread armed conflict.

“Our generations need to work together… and then you will assume the responsibilities, and you need to be prepared and be in very good shape”, he told the young participants.

The UN chief also met with the mayor of Hiroshima, and the deputy mayor of Nagasaki, and was granted honorary citizenship of Hiroshima.

“I accept this great honour on behalf of all the women and men of the United Nations who are working for peace around the world. I accept it on behalf of the diplomats and negotiators who — this very week — are meeting in New York to stop the spread of nuclear weapons”, he expressed.

 

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