Updates on Canada’s NPT preparations, the Lima Group, Iran and U.S. sanctions

Our Rideau Institute blog post of 25 February referenced Foreign Minister Champagne’s first major foreign policy speech, which he delivered to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations on 21 February. Highlighting foreign policy challenges like China and our bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, Minister Champagne was silent on nuclear disarmament, even as the nuclear arms control architecture painstakingly built up over the past 50 years is “collapsing before our eyes.”

The latest blow was delivered in the form of an  announcement by a senior Russian diplomat that the U.S. has declined an invitation to hold a formal meeting to discuss the legal details of extending the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which is due to expire in February 2021:

We offered a meeting between our legal experts to make sure that we’re on the same page and to negotiate a common understanding of the technical side of the extension [of the treaty], but a few days ago the Americans officially declined that offer.

For a Canadian expert assessment of the problem, see: Uncertainty Haunts the Future of Non-proliferation Treaty and Disarmament (Tariq Rauf, indepthnews.net, 27 February 2020).

Global Affairs initiates NPT consultations with civil society

On a more positive note, officials at Global Affairs Canada (GAC) have sought written input from civil society disarmament experts on Canada’s National Report on the implementation of the NPT in the lead up to the 2020 Review Conference. On the utility of these reports, Cindy Termorshuizen, Director General, International Security Policy at GAC, comments:

A key way in which States can assess the health of the Treaty is by reviewing reports submitted by States outlining their activities in support of the Treaty. Reporting, particularly by nuclear-weapon States, is essential to transparency, building trust and confidence, encouraging dialogue, and measuring if States are following through on their obligations and promises.

While Canadian civil society disarmament experts, including RI President Peggy Mason, welcome this opportunity for providing direct input, many also believe it is not a substitute for more comprehensive talks:

However welcome GAC’s efforts to seek civil society input on Canada’s national report to the NPT via phone or email, these should be in addition to—not instead of—dedicated, substantive, in-person consultations on nuclear disarmament, as well as disarmament and arms control more generally. – Cesar Jaramillo, Project Ploughshares

The Lima Group, unilateral sanctions and international law

Chaired by Canada, the Lima Group met in Gatineau, P.Q. on 20 February to “discuss how to establish broad international cooperation for a regionally led solution to the crisis in Venezuela.” The meeting concluded with a statement by the Canadian Foreign Minister which, inter alia, professed “strict adherence to the rule of law and respect for human rights” and declared that human suffering in Venezuela had reached an “intolerable level”.

As with past statements, no mention was made of the role that illegal unilateral U.S. sanctions are playing in ratcheting up the pain and suffering of ordinary Venezuelans.

As far back as November 2017 the Trump administration instituted sanctions against Venezuela that impeded its ability to purchase vital food and medicines, and the scope of this “economic warfare” has relentlessly expanded ever since.

In August of 2019 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that the then latest U.S. sanctions on Venezuela would:

significantly exacerbate the crisis for millions in terms of access to food and health, in a country already suffering from serious shortages of essential goods.

The UN human rights chief drew specific attention to the failure of the U.S. sanctions to contain sufficient measures to mitigate their impact on the most vulnerable sectors of the populations.

This approach stands in sharp contrast to the multilateral sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, which include the establishment of a dedicated “Sanctions Committee” to monitor and mitigate negative humanitarian impacts.

Whither Canada

We call on Canada to demonstrate “strict adherence to the rule of law and respect for human rights” by taking an unequivocal stand against the illegal sanctioning of humanitarian goods.

Iran and U.S. sanctions and the Coronavirus

The respected Middle East journal Al-Monitor reports that the Trump administration has “slightly eased” sanctions on Iran to allow for trade in “medical supplies and food” as Tehran struggles to respond to the coronavirus outbreak throughout the country. The U.S. Treasury Department issued a general license exemption for trade in humanitarian goods through Iran’s central bank. At the same time, the United States and Switzerland finalized a humanitarian trade agreement, which provides assurances for the Swiss to export humanitarian goods to Iran without fear of incurring U.S. sanctions penalties.

What this welcome, but limited, action demonstrates beyond doubt is that U.S. sanctions against Iran have heretofore prevented European countries and others from exporting vitally needed humanitarian goods to Iran.

Whither Canada?

We call on Canada to work with European partners to take a public stand against the unconscionable action of sanctioning humanitarian goods.

And now for some good news: Sudan’s democratic revolution

Professor Stephen Zunes, recently back from Sudan, describes how a non-violent pro-democracy civil resistance movement in Sudan did what nobody thought it could do:

Among other things, its success points to perhaps the single most important factor: nonviolent discipline.

For the full article, see: Sudan’s Democratic Revolution: How They Did It (Stephen Zunes, insidearabia.com, 26 February 2020)

Photo credit: Gov’t of Canada (Lima Group)

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