World leaders have closed the Nuclear Security summit with a pledge to keep looking for ways to ensure terrorists can't obtain nuclear material. The meeting was, however, overshadowed by the crisis in Ukraine.
At the end of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, all 53 member countries signed a statement agreeing to keep looking for ways to protect nuclear material from terrorists.
Thirty-five of those countries pledged to turn international guidelines on nuclear security into national laws. The initiative - put forward by the Netherlands, South Korea and the US - also commits countries to open up their security procedures to independent review. Among countries that agreed were France, Britain, Canada, Israel and Japan. Notably absent were Russia, China, India and Pakistan.
Since US President Barack Obama launched the series in 2010, the number of countries that have enough material to build a nuclear weapon has fallen from 39 to 25.
At a closing press conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Obama praised new commitments made at the summit by Japan, Italy and Belgium to reduce their stocks of highly enriched uranium and plutonium.
Rutte added that the group's political commitment remained "undiminished," saying "we remain convinced that preventing nuclear terrorism is the whole world's business, so agreements have to be made at global level."
Obama announced the next summit will convene in his adopted hometown of Chicago in 2016, and will be a "transition" summit where heads of state will look to hand over responsibility for nuclear security to their ministers.
Focus on Crimea
Once the press briefing was opened to questions the focus quickly changed from nuclear security to the situation in Crimea.
On Monday, the United States, France, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy and Japan – known as the G7 - released a strongly-worded joint statement denouncing a referendum in Crimea to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.
"This clear violation of international law is a serious challenge to the rule of law around the world and should be a concern for all nations," the declaration said.
The leaders were meeting after suspending this year's planned Group of Eight summit, which was scheduled to take place in Russia, the holders of the rotating G8 presidency. Russia had joined the G8 in 1998.
Russia, however, reacted dismissively with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calling the G8 "an informal club."
"It has no membership tickets, and it can't purge anyone by definition," he added.
hc/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)