IAEA Holds Forum on Mideast Nuclear Arms

Daniel Horner

Participants in a forum at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month proposed that countries trying to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East “identify specific and practical confidence-building measures” and recognize that “declarations of good intentions could be a first step to [breaking] the current stalemate,” according to an IAEA summary of the meeting.

The Nov. 21-22 forum in Vienna drew representatives from 97 states, including every Middle Eastern country except Iran, the agency said.

The meeting, chaired by Norwegian IAEA ambassador Jan Petersen, was designed to draw on the experiences of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones. One lesson, according to the summary, was “the need to strike a balance between the value of prior experience and the uniqueness of each region.” Another was the importance of “involvement from the outset” by the nuclear-weapon states, “notably through the issue of negative security assurances.”

Ridding the Middle East of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is a long-standing nonproliferation and disarmament goal that received a boost at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, where the parties agreed to hold a conference in 2012 on creating a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone.