Western nuclear powers to snub Nobel ceremony

OSLO – Breaking with tradition, nearly all ambassadors of the world’s nuclear powers will not attend this year’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony which honours efforts to ban atomic weapons, the Nobel Institute said Thursday.

Russia and Israel will be the only exceptions, with their ambassadors due to attend. “They clearly received instructions to express their reservations towards ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) and the global treaty” to ban weapons of mass destruction, the head of the Nobel Institute, Olav Njolstad, told AFP.

The Peace Prize was awarded on October 6 to ICAN, a coalition of non-governmental organisations lobbying for a historic treaty banning atomic weapons, which was signed in July by 122 countries.

The treaty remains nonetheless largely symbolic, as none of the nuclear powers have agreed to sign it. The Nobel Institute said the ambassadors of India and Pakistan will be travelling at the time of the ceremony, while China has not attended the prize-giving since 2010, when a Chinese dissident was awarded the honour. North Korea does not have an embassy in Oslo. ICAN will formally receive its prize at a lavish ceremony in Oslo on December 10.

During a meeting in the Norwegian capital last week, the United States, France and Britain all informed the Institute of their decision to be represented by their embassy’s second-in-charge.

“Generally, the big powers, at least the Western ones, send their ambassadors,” Njolstad said. “In principle, we like all embassies in Oslo to send their highest representative but we have to accept that, sometimes, for political reasons, various countries abstain from participating or choose to do so at a lower level.”

Noting that the treaty comes “at a time of increased danger of nuclear proliferation”, the US embassy confirmed its lower level of participation.

“This treaty will not make the world more peaceful, will not result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon, and will not enhance any state’s security,” it said in a statement to AFP.

Without mentioning North Korea by name, it stressed that “this treaty ignores the current security challenges that make nuclear deterrence necessary”, and reiterated Washington’s support of the 1968 global non-proliferation treaty.

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