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  • Affiliation : Director, Department for non-proliferation and arms control, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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2012 Conference Postponed but We Still Need to Create the Zone

30.11.2012

KMO_132819_00001_1_t206.jpgMOSCOW. NOVEMBER 30, 2012. PIR PRESS – “The announcement recently published on the MFA website does not say that the Helsinki conference on the Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone has been postponed. In the text, we can only see that there are voices in favor of such postponement. In reality, this decision can be made only with the consent of the states within the region. The co-organizers of the conference: Russia, the U.S.A. and the UK, as well as the UN Secretary General are parties that were only requested to prepare the Helsinki conference in 2012. Therefore, without consensus of the regional states we do not have authority to make this decision”- Director of Department for Security Affairs and Disarmament at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

On November, 23rd the White House Press Secretary Victoria Nuland announced that the United States as one of the conveners, regretfully acknowledge that Helsinki conference on the Middle East WMD-Free Zone cannot be convened due to failure of reaching an agreement between countries of the region and the general instability in the Middle East. Decision to hold the mentioned conference in Helsinki in December 2012 was taken at the previous NPT Review conference in 2010. The fate of the conference remained uncertain until the very last moment due to position of Israel, which is not a member of the NPT treaty, and links its participation to the Middle East peace process.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his regret that the conference would not take place as scheduled. At the same time he stressed that, he supports all the efforts made by a special coordinator Jaakko Laajava in order to continue consultations with the countries of the region to hold the conference in April 2013 at the latest. The official Russian position on this issue was clarified by Mikhail Ulyanov in an interview for Kommersant newspaper (in Russian). He explained that “the announcement recently published on the MFA website does not say that the Helsinki conference on the Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone has been postponed. In the text, we can only see that there are voices in favor of such postponement. In reality, this decision can be made only with the consent of the states within the region. The co-organizers of the conference: Russia, the U.S.A. and the UK, as well as the UN Secretary General are parties that were only requested to prepare the Helsinki conference in 2012. Therefore, without consensus of the regional states we do not have authority to make this decision”.

87c91_Middle_East_2528orthographic_projePIR Center takes active participation in the preparatory work for the establishment of Middle East Zone Free of WMD as part of the project “Russia and the Middle East: promoting strategic interests.” On October 4, PIR Center held an international seminar “2012 Conference on the Middle East Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction - Searching for Solutions”. In the seminar participated officials from the United States, Russia, Israel, Iran, the League of Arab States and other countries of the region. As it was pointed out in the speech of PIR Center President Vladimir Orlov: “However, the main obstacle in the path of a NWFZ conference in 2012 is even not so much impediments from the opponents of a nuclear-free Middle East as skepticism and distrust that any progress in this field is possible in the first place. As a result, both experts and diplomats sometimes wish to brush aside the question of creating an NWFZ in the Middle East; is hopeless and unviable. This approach leads to the risk of zero expectations from the 2012 conference and, as a result, complete inaction”

PIR Center experts also took part  in other conferences dedicated to the Middle East Zone Free of WMD, in Istanbul on October 24-25  and Amman on November 13-15. Currently PIR Center works on the White Paper on “Ten Steps toward Creating a Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East” that will provide recommendations to break the stalemate. The report will be presented by the April 2013.

For more questions on the Middle East Project of PIR Center please contact Alexander Kolbin by phone  +7 (495) 987-19-15 or email kolbin at pircenter.org.

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