UNA Edinburgh & PalThink Seminar on WMDFZ in the Middle East

“We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…”

Any city in the Middle East would be completely destroyed by the explosion of a single nuclear weapon and radioactivity would be spread throughout the surrounding country side. Israel apparently possess some 200 atomic bombs. NATO stores a similar number at Incirlik in southern Turkey.  Nuclear weapons are on the US planes and ships based in the region and many people are worried that Iran is now working to produce atomic bombs.   There appears to be little open collaboration to ensure mutual security in the Middle East. Indeed, there are a few countries that have yet to sign the Conventions against chemical and biological weapons.

Having held a conference on WMDFZ in the ME in May 2012, we send this message to those attending the Palthink Gaza seminar.  We are delighted that, in preparation for the ‘Helsinki’ Conference on WMDFZ in the ME, Palthink is holding a civil society seminar.  We hope that your meeting will be productive and, like us, you will send a message of support to the Helsinki ME Conference being held in December 2012 and especially to Under Secretary Laavaja for assiduous efforts to address the difficult security issues.

Also, we hope that you, like us, will call on all states in the region to participate constructively and with appropriate levels of authority and expertise, and to contribute to a constructive December Conference and help to build a process that will establish practical mechanisms for achieving the major objectives.

We recognise that Civil Society as well as governments can do more to reduce the salience of weapons of mass destruction and programmes especially in the Middle East region.  And we recognise the importance of engaging women (as mandated in UNSCR 1325 and other UN resolutions) and youth in view of the social and political changes being brought about through civil society ‘Awakenings’ in many Middle East countries.

We urge your seminar to consider whether the Helsinki Conference should initiate a follow-up process recognising that progress will require concurrent negotiating tracks (parallel or otherwise) dealing with arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation issues as well as peace, security and normalisation issues. The principles underlying future mutual security, human rights and humanitarian issues could be considered.

Detailed surveillance of the processes needed to prepare the way for a NWFZ/WMDFZ, may also be part of your seminar discussions. Issues would include fissile materials production, fuel cycle technologies, missile programmes, adherence to and implementation of the various WMD-related treaties and Security Council resolutions. Our UNAE Conference suggested that a timetable should be prepared including a timetable for Israel to put its nuclear facilities progressively under IAEA safeguards.

Stability within the Middle East clearly involves changes in military dispositions by states such as the US formally outside the region. We urge the Gaza Seminar to discuss how arms production and trade can be addressed multilaterally as well as regionally, engaging both the producers and humanitarian organisations, and recognising how the economic-military-industrial nexus operates in the region, fed in many cases by military-industrial-economic policies of countries outside the region, such as the UK.

Finally, we suggest that the Gaza Seminar might wish to press the Helsinki Conference to set in motion a multi-track confidence-building process. A practical first step could be to establish a group of regional, technical and scientific experts to discuss verification, monitoring and technical issues and underlying challenges while seeking to avoid political traps; something along the lines of the Group of Scientific Experts (GSE) that paved the way for the CTBT negotiations.