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Published on August 11th, 2012 | by Wilbert van der Zeijden

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A Middle East WMD Free Zone- some events

A zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East has been a global goal since at least 1974. In the last few weeks, IKV Pax Christi, along with a number of partners, organized events about this issue- looking at the hopes, expectations and fear around the process.

The first event was in New York during the UN General Assembly First Committee. The Permanent Mission of Ireland, the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, IKV Pax Christi and the Israeli Disarmament Movement held a panel discussion: Helsinki and Beyond: the Hopes and Expectations of Civil Society. Dr. Rebecca Johnson (Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy) chaired the session and reminded attendees that this should not be a one-off session, but rather the start of a confidence building process. Susi Snyder (IKV Pax Christi) spoke of how the shift in the balance of power in the Middle East is one cause for hope; changes in governance in the region and the evolution of Iran’s nuclear breakout capability should, in fact, be looked upon favorably since they are “game changing” developments. Ms. Sharon Dolev (Israeli Disarmament Movement) focused on the expectation that governments attend the Helsinki meeting in a spirit of good will. She also discussed the work of the Israeli Disarmament Movement- informing the Israeli public, parliament members, and media about the possibility of a MEWMDFZ and the 2012 conference—a subject that has lain essentially dormant within Israel. A longer report of this event can be found in Reaching Critical Will’s First Committee Monitor (page 22).

Sharon and Susi also spoke during an event in the Netherlands held at Humanity House. That event brought together a number of perspectives from Middle East experts from both inside and outside the region. It was an opportunity to hear first-hand stories of how fear has influenced the daily lives of those living in the region, and how hope- including hope for a zone free of weapons of mass destruction- is changing daily conversations.

The reason there are so many events (because there are many, many of them taking place around the world) is due to the 2010 agreement at the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. There States parties to the 2010 NPT Review Conference, agreed to “convene a conference in 2012, to be attended by all States of the Middle East, on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the States of the region, and with the full support and engagement of the nuclear-weapon States. The 2012 Conference shall take as its terms of reference the 1995 Resolution”

In 2011, Finland agreed to both host and facilitate this conference, tentatively scheduled for December 2012 in Helsinki. There are countless rumors going around as to whether or not the government conference will actually take place as tentatively scheduled in mid-December 2012, with the latest information coming from the Iranian representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency stating that Iran will indeed attend such a conference, whenever it takes place. Even if governments decide to postpone for a while, civil society is going ahead with organising a discussion forum. All are welcome to come to Helsinki for that, information can be found here: http://www.rauhanliitto.fi/activities/conference-the-middle-east-without-weapons-mass-destruction-civil-society-input

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About the Author

Wilbert van der Zeijden is the senior researcher of the Security and DIsarmament team of PAX. Wilbert currently focusses on getting US nuclear weapons out of Europe; WMD out of the Middle East and your savings out of nuclear weapons producing companies. He graduated at the Vrije University in Amsterdam and previously worked for about nine years for the think-tank Transnational Institute, as their Peace and Security Programme coordinator. Wilbert’s research interests include humanitarian disarmament, NATO and European security, toxic legacies of war and developments in international military infrastructure.



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