Today’s announcement that Finland will host and provide the facilitator for a 2012 conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East is a welcome development but it is disappointing that it has taken so long to reach these decisions, said BASIC Program Director Anne Penketh. “It’s the first concrete step since the decision to convene a conference was taken at the end of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, in May last year, so it should be welcomed,” said Penketh. “It’s a positive sign that things are moving along, albeit too slowly.”
But she added that the low-key announcement at the United Nations on a Friday, which is not a working day in the Middle East, was “a case of burying good news”. “It reflects the political sensitivities in organizing this hugely important conference, which aims to bring Israel and Iran to the table for discussions on their mutual security for the first time,” she said. Israel, which is not a member of the NPT, has an undeclared nuclear arsenal and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Iran’s nuclear program represents an “existential” threat to his country.
Penketh noted that 2012 is an election year in the United States which means that the US, which is a co-sponsor involved in the appointment of the facilitator, may not wish to draw attention to plans for the conference despite the Obama administration’s commitment to holding it.
Today’s announcement was made in a joint statement by the UN secretary-general, and the US, UK and Russia as the co-sponsors of a 1995 resolution on the WMD-free zone and as depositaries of the NPT. It identified Jaakko Laajava, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, as the facilitator who has the daunting task of consulting states in the region and preparing for the conference.
Anne Penketh, BASIC Program Director
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