Omicron wave delays UN nuclear treaty conference

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A U.N. nuclear treaty conference has been delayed until August of next year due to the surge in COVID-19 cases brought on by the highly transmissible omicron variant, further pushing back the meeting that has already been held up for two years.

A conference to review the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was scheduled to commence next Tuesday at the U.N. headquarters in New York after two years of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) sent out an email on Thursday notifying relevant parties that the conference would now convene on August 1, 2022, The Associated Press reported.

The NPT is an international treaty that seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. With 93 signatory states, the NPT is the most widely ratified nuclear arms agreement in the world. The treaty stipulates that countries that did not have nuclear weapons when they signed it would not seek to acquire them and countries that already possessed such weapons when signing - the U.S., U.K., Russia, France and China - would move to eliminate them.

As the AP noted, conferences to review the NPT are scheduled every five years with the last conference held in 2015. The UNODA informed conference leader Gustavo Zlauvinen on Monday that the conference would not be able to proceed, suggesting that it be held remotely or further delayed.

"This is a regrettable decision, but the present circumstances do not leave us any other choice," Zlauvinen said, according to the AP.