On Wednesday and Thursday, BASIC is holding a timely conference in Doha, Qatar, on “Nuclear Non-Proliferation in the Gulf”. It comes the week before President Obama meets with world leaders in South Korea for the second Nuclear Security Summit of his presidency, and the month before the resumption of the diplomatic cycle culminating in the 2015 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It also coincides with the run-up to a crucial new round of negotiations between Iran and the big powers grouped in the P5+1 aimed at reaching agreement on curbing Iran’s nuclear program.
Government officials and distinguished non-government experts from the United States, Europe and Arab states will convene at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar for two days of discussions. They will examine the burning questions of the day from the perspective of reinforcing the NPT, and will revisit the Action Plan issued at the end of the 2010 Review Conference. The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) last week held a meeting in Geneva to discuss strengthening the NPT by considering measures that would help promote the widespread adoption of International Atomic Energy Agency additional protocols and comprehensive nuclear safeguards.
A key challenge is finding the balance that ensures that Iran’s nuclear program is in compliance while respecting its rights to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. The BASIC conference participants will also discuss the prospects for the planned 2012 conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East which will also be a critical discussion between government representatives at the NPT Preparatory Committee, to be held in Vienna from April 30th to May 11th. The Finnish facilitator for the 2012 conference, Jaakko Laajava, who has been holding consultations with all the regional participants and with the conference conveners since being appointed last October, will deliver his first report on progress so far to the PrepCom.
Other issues to be covered by the BASIC conference include the future of nuclear power in the Persian Gulf one year after the Fukushima disaster. Unlike some European states, the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council were not deterred in their pursuit of nuclear energy by the meltdown at the Japanese nuclear plant following a massive earthquake and tsunami. Questions also remain about how to avoid the spread of sensitive dual-use fuel cycle activities which could be a source of proliferation. States in the Persian Gulf facing the possible development of a nuclear weapons capability across the water in Iran face the choice of attempting to strengthen multilateral diplomatic restraints at the regional level, achieving security through guarantees from external powers, or developing their own dual-use capabilities. In short, there will be plenty to discuss this week in a non-nuclear weapons state which has come to the fore in the diplomatic arena in the past year. A full report of the event will be on the BASIC website.