NEW YORK - The UN General Assembly on Friday adopted for the first time a resolution calling for the start of negotiations to outlaw nuclear weapons, marking a major step toward landmark talks on disarmament.
The resolution calls for talks to be held twice next year -- the first round from March 27 to 31 and the second from June 15 through July 7 in New York -- to negotiate a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.
Because the meetings will be held at UN headquarters there were financial implications that had to be approved before it could finally be adopted in a plenary session.
One hundred and thirteen countries backed it, and 35 -- including the United States, Britain, France, Russia and Japan -- voted against it. Thirteen, including China, abstained.
"Negotiation of a nuclear weapons ban treaty is the first step in finishing the major piece of unfinished business within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires nuclear-armed states to disarm," Matthew Bolton, associate chair of Pace University, said in an e-mail exchange with Kyodo News.
"The passage of this resolution sends a clear message that the vast majority of the world sees nuclear weapons as illegitimate and inhumane weapons. The successful negotiation of a treaty would represent the most significant shift in nuclear politics since the end of the Cold War and represents a much-needed victory for multilateral diplomacy."
The decision to endorse the resolution at the General Assembly follows the Oct. 27 resolution that was adopted by a UN committee charged with overseeing disarmament issues.
The motion was initially put forward after a UN working group on nuclear disarmament in August adopted a report recommending to the General Assembly that negotiations begin in 2017 to make nuclear weapons illegal.
Austria introduced the draft along with Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa as the first stage in the process at the committee level. Once endorsed there, the final step is the adoption by the General Assembly.