Can the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons play a role in the Middle East crisis?


The majority of nations are nuclear weapons-free and do not endorse the nuclear weapons possessed by other states which they regard as a threat to all countries. In 2017, 122 countries voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) at the United Nations. The treaty came into effect in 2021, and 97 countries - almost half of all eligible states -  have already signed, ratified or acceded to it.

Members of the TPNW have committed never to possess, host, threaten to use or assist with the use of nuclear weapons. This is a recognition of the inhumane nature of these weapons.

The TPNW is an important tool to leverage international pressure on all states that host, possess or threaten to use nuclear weapons to abandon them and it is important that all nine nuclear-armed states and their allies which support the use of nuclear weapons join the treaty. 

All countries that join the treaty strengthen the international taboo against nuclear weapons enshrined in international law through the TPNW. A joint statement by TPNW member states condemning threats to use nuclear weapons following Russian threats to use nuclear weapons during its invasion of Ukraine have inspired subsequent international condemnations and effectively restrained Russian behaviour.

The TPNW complements the NPT and the regional nuclear weapons free zone treaties already in force in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, South East Asia and the South Pacific.

A regional treaty banning nuclear weapons from the Middle East has been proposed in UN forums, but so far has not been agreed.