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WMD Free Zone in the Middle East - Anticipating the Decision

21.11.2012

134_350_175.jpgMOSCOW, NOVEMBER 21, 2012. PIR PRESS – "Postponing the Helsinki Conference, especially without setting a new date would actually mean its cancelation. What format can offer instead those who are not ready for discussion about the Middle East Zone Free of WMD today? WMD in the region is not only a political or legal question, or the question of the fate of the NPT. It is a real danger to the people of the region”, – Albert Zulkharneev, PIR Center Education and Training Program Director.

 Within a couple of days, the UN Secretary General and co–sponsors of the Middle East Resolution adopted at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference Russia, the UK and the U.S.A. (that are also depositaries of the NPT) will announce whether the decision of the 2010 NPT Review Conference to convene the Conference on the Middle East Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction in 2012 will be upheld.

The conference should be organized "on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the States of the region ". Taking into account that the calendar year ends in a month, and the decision have not been announced yet, it is clear that the ongoing negotiations are not easy ones. Despite the emerging speculations on the question whether the conference will be held in Helsinki or not, the Facilitator, Under Secretary of State of Finland Jaakko Laajava and his representatives ask to be patient and wait for the official announcement.

Over the past year, experts from around the world have worked hard to assist diplomats in advancing the process of creating Middle East Zone Free of WMD and reaching the agreement between the key parties. On October 4, 2012 in Moscow PIR Center organized a seminar dedicated to searching for constructive solutions to the issue. The seminar brought together officials and experts from more than 30 countries, including the Middle East Arab states, Israel, Iran, etc. Following the Moscow meeting seminars in Istanbul, Amman and a round table in Baku took place. PIR Center experts were present at all of these events , they presented results of the Moscow conference as well as shared their vision on the problem.

 One of the seminars was organized on October 24-25, 2012 by British American Security Information Council BASIC in Istanbul. It was attended by the PIR Center Education and Training Program Director Albert Zulkharneev. During the seminar he noted: "Postponing the Helsinki Conference, especially without setting a new date would actually mean its cancelation. What format can offer instead those who are not ready for discussion about the Middle East Zone Free of WMD today? WMD in the region is not only a political or legal question, or the question of the fate of the NPT. It is a real danger to the people of the region. No one is expecting bold decisions from the conference, neither experts nor politicians, but meeting in Helsinki could be used in order to identify all the stances and start a conversation on the mechanisms of collaboration. U.S. officials talk about fundamental changes in the regional security as a precondition for starting negotiations on the Middle East WMD Free Zone. Are not negotiations on the Zone and the Conference part of or stimulus for these changes? There is another relevant issue. Recently several countries from the region changed their regimes. New political leaders are immersed in resolving internal problems; the threat of weapons of mass destruction is not in the center of their attention. The 2012 Conference could help to draw attention to this key issue and return it to the political agenda in the region”.

131_350_175.pngCoordinator of the PIR Center’s "Russia and Nuclear Nonproliferation" program Alexander Kolbin participated in a conference on the prospects for Middle East Zone Free of WMD organized by the Arab Institute for Security Studies. Alexander Kolbin drew attention to the responsibility of the region’s countries to convene the Helsinki Conference in 2012, as well as to create Middle East Zone Free of WMD: “The Middle Eastern states know best what the nature of their security problems is. Accordingly, the major evaluation of the causes for distrust and tensions in the region, that must be the a starting point for the WMD Free Zone process, have to be made within the region itself and cannot be undertaken mainly by non-regional states. Based on such analysis Middle Eastern states are to decide in the exercise of their sovereignty, whether a WMD-free zone is to be created”.

PIR Center continues to monitor the negotiations on the Middle East WMD Free Zone and in December 2012 will issue a nongovernmental report summarizing results of political and expert discussion and propose new steps to strengthen the nonproliferation regime in the Middle East.

For more PIR Center materials on this topic please refer to our website section "Russia and the Middle East: Promoting Strategic Interests."

For comments of PIR Center experts, please contact Andrey Baklitskiy by phone: +7 (495) 987-19-15 or e-mail: baklitsky at pircenter.org

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