Nations Urged to Press for WMD-Free Mideast

Global powers must act decisively to prevent nuclear weapons from proliferating across the Middle East, diplomatic officials and issue specialists said on Tuesday at a forum in Amman, Jordan (see GSN, Nov. 22).

The three-day event was intended to help prepare the way for a planned 2012 meeting on creating a regional ban on nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction, the Jordan Times reported. Such nuclear weapon-free zones have been established to date in five other regions.

Arab nations believe that policies incorporating mutual nuclear deterrence offer only "false security," Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan said in remarks delivered by Jordan Atomic Energy Commission chief Khaled Toukan.

“By following the example of the five zones that have already voluntarily banned nuclear weapons, governments and policy-makers in the Middle East can help realize the secure and safe future that our people are entitled to,” he said in the address.

Toukan later added: “The ongoing presence of nuclear weapons in Israel and Iran in the future may trigger other states to move towards the militarization of their nuclear programs" (see related GSN stories, today).

“That it is why it is very important that we continue to move forward to establishing a regional zone and convince Israel and Iran of the benefits of the transparent peaceful use of nuclear energy,” the official said.

Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia endorsed the creation of such an area in the Middle East, and he voiced support for potential “rewards" and "sanctions" systems to encourage participation by governments.

'Untold and possibly dramatic consequences" could result from state reactions to Israeli and Iranian atomic policies, he said, adding the two regional powers have undermined past nonproliferation initiatives.

“The best way towards peace in our region is for all nations -- but most importantly Iran and Israel -- to support the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Recent political unrest in the region has provided new momentum for the anti-WMD effort, according to independent specialists.

“Previous experiences have shown that politically liberalized states are more likely to sign nuclear arms control treaties, and the regional atmosphere may be a positive step to finally realize the goal of a WMD-free Middle East,” University of Trento expert Paolo Foradori said.

A significant number of analysts believe the planned 2012 meeting is "the last chance" to prevent a significant spread of nuclear-weapons capabilities through the region, Partnership for Global Security head Kenneth Luongo said. Political turbulence in the area might result in a one-year postponement of the conference, he said, noting the decision to convene the event in Finland was reached over several years.

“We hope to take steps soon, and eliminate any doubts before we head into what will be a historic opportunity,” he said.

Analysts at this week's meeting were set to consider the potential creation of atomic fuel production capabilities to serve the Middle East. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have accelerated their pursuit of weapon-relevant civilian atomic programs, in part as a response to Iran and Israel, experts said.

Separately, specialists at the event were expected to discuss possible means of monitoring the implementation of bans on chemical and biological weapons (Taylor Luck, Jordan Times, Nov. 30)

November 30, 2011
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Global powers must act decisively to prevent nuclear weapons from proliferating across the Middle East, diplomatic officials and issue specialists said on Tuesday at a forum in Amman, Jordan.