Nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East – First Cttee debate – Press release (excerpts)

General Assembly


Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixtieth General Assembly                                  

First Committee                                            

13th Meeting (AM)



Thematic Debate Continues; Other Resolutions Introduced

Concern Reducing Military Budgets, Mediterranean Security


The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to begin its thematic debate on regional disarmament and other disarmament measures, and to hear the introduction of related draft texts.  It was also expected to hear a briefing by the Chairman of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, Vincente Berasategui, and the Chairman of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, Audrey Krutskikh.

LARBI EL HADJ ALI ( Algeria) expressed his ardent support for the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones around the world.  Their establishment should be viewed as both implementing the provisions of Article VII of the NPT, which recognized States’ rights to conclude regional treaties that ensured the absence of nuclear weapons on their territories, as well as a step towards freeing the world from nuclear weapons.  A conducive climate for the creation of such zones had been established in several regions of the globe, including the African region, where States had concluded the Pelindaba Treaty.  Algeria had been the third African country to sign that instrument. 

At the same time, he said he was deeply concerned at the absence of progress in that regard in the difficult region of the Middle East, where only Israel had continually refused to join the NPT and place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.  Specific measures should be taken to implement the resolution on the Middle East, adopted by the NPT States parties at the review of the NPT in 1995.  The international community must take a final decision and make a steadfast commitment to establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones throughout the world, bearing in mind that the only real safeguard of security rested with the total elimination of nuclear weapons. 

HERD ABDULAZIZ ALOWAIS ( United Arab Emirates) said, notwithstanding confidence-building measures adopted by his country with regard to disarmament, the security situation in the Middle East continued to pose a major threat to international peace, security and stability.  Israel continued to possess a nuclear-weapon arsenal.  Israel was the only State in the Middle East not party to the NPT and not willing to place its nuclear facilities under the control of the IAEA.  The creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone had been prevented because of the double standards applied in the realm of disarmament, in general.  That had encouraged Israel to pursue its irresponsible policy of developing its own nuclear weapons arsenal.

She called upon the international community to live up fully to its responsibilities as far as peace and security in the Middle East was concerned.  To do that, Israel must be prompted to bring its nuclear facilities under the safeguards of the IAEA.  The international community needed to exert greater pressure to get the Israeli Government to heed the call for it to join the NPT, and the IAEA.  Also, she called upon all States, especially the nuclear States, to abide by the commitments that they had made.  Once those measures had been enacted, it would enhance confidence and create a positive environment and that would strengthen efforts to contain violence and to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists.

ALI AL-KUBAISI ( Qatar) called for urgent steps to implement the call to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, in accordance with the resolution adopted at the NPT review in 1995.  He exhorted all States to accept the NPT obligations, and for those that had not yet done so to submit their nuclear facilities and activities to IAEA guarantees.  Until that zone’s establishment, its principles must be accepted and States must not engage in any steps to modernize weapons where those existed, or to acquire or install them on their territories.  States in the region generally agreed to the provisions of such a zone and of the relevant resolutions.  He welcomed all initiatives designed to create a zone in the Middle East free from all weapons of mass destruction. 

With that in mind, he recalled that Qatar had signed the NPT on 10 December 1996 and had reaffirmed its sincere commitment in all international forums to turn the Middle East into a zone free from nuclear and other mass destruction weapons.  Israel must also join the NPT and submit its nuclear facilities to IAEA guarantees, in line with the call in the relevant United Nations resolutions.  He, meanwhile, called on all States to bring pressure to bear on Israel to “bend to the will” of the international community and implement all relevant resolutions, as the only State in the region that had not signed the NPT or submitted its nuclear facilities to IAEA safeguards.  That, in turn, bred insecurity in the region, which endured a looming threat because of those “death-dealing” weapons. 

SAJA MAJALI ( Jordan) said she welcomed all initiatives that would lead to general and complete disarmament and had continuously supported all related efforts aimed at promoting confidence-building measures at the international, regional and subregional levels.  She had also welcomed all efforts aimed at establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones in all regions of the world.  Efforts to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, in the Middle East, was vital.  Israel remained the only State in the region that had not acceded to the NPT and that refused to subject its nuclear facilities and weapons to IAEA safeguards and inspection.

Since 1974, she added, the General Assembly had adopted more than 32 resolutions on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and had called upon all parties directly concerned to consider taking practical and urgent steps required for the implementation of that proposal, and to declare that they refrain from producing, acquiring or in any other way possessing nuclear weapons and nuclear explosive devices, and that they agree to place their nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.  To date, however, that had not been realized.

She said both the 1995 resolution and the 2000 conclusions on the Middle East adopted in the respective review conferences of the parties to the NPT, as well as under numerous resolutions, called on the international community to urge Israel to accede to the NPT and place its nuclear facilities under IAEA supervision.  Israel’s accession to the NPT remained of the utmost importance.  Such an undertaking would bring the world closer attaining the universality of the NPT and would further consolidate the global non-proliferation regime.  Its accession to the Treaty would defuse existing tensions, bring about tangible progress in other bilateral tracks of the peace process, enhance confidence-building measures, mitigate the regional arms race allowing for the huge financial resources to be redirected towards economic and social development and have an overall positive impact on regional peace and security.  Implementation of IAEA safety measures would, furthermore, prevent the occurrence of potential nuclear accidents and spare the region the risk of radiological contamination.

SIHAM MOURABIT ( Morocco) said that a peaceful and prosperous Mediterranean region required a deepened international commitment and solidarity to assist the countries in the region in mastering the regional challenges.  Without persistent attention, the region would remain a fertile breeding ground for all manner of tension and terrorism.  The gap was widening between the two banks of the Mediterranean, further jeopardizing security in the region.  Closing that gap required the active cooperation of both banks and the real economic integration of those South of the Mediterranean.  The international community was duty-bound to see to it that the region remained a haven of peace, prosperity and security.  She reaffirmed Morocco’s unswerving commitment to its bilateral and multilateral obligations, as well as its active support of maintaining peace and security. 

Warning that the Middle East situation was still fraught with threats and tensions, she said that that was a major problem for the further political, economic and social development for all areas surrounding the Mediterranean.  She hoped the second anniversary of the Barcelona Conference in November would prove catalytic, in terms of attaining the aims of the action programme for strengthened peace and stability, economic development, the consolidation of democracy, and the achievement of security region-wide.  Elections earlier this month had lent further impetus to the Barcelona process, she said. 

GHALEB EL-ANBAKI (Iraq) said he would like to note the Constitution of the Iraqi Republic on which the referendum was conducted on article 9, paragraph E, the Iraqi Government pledges to respect the commitments of Iraq and implement its international guarantees concerning the prohibition of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and prohibited the development, manufacture and means of delivery of such weapons.  He hoped that pledge would be approved when the results of the referendum were announced in the next few days.  Since 1974, an item on the nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East had been included and it enjoyed special importance.  The Member States in the NPT, at the 1995 review conference, approved the indefinite extension of the NPT and called upon all States in the region to adhere to the NPT as quickly as possible and to subject their nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection.

He said all Arab States were parties to the NPT and to regional agreements.  All States parties during the 2000 review conference underlined the importance of bringing about the universality of the NPT.  The adherence of Israel would bring about universality.  Most states had underlined international statements and interventions on the importance of establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone and a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction.  Israel was called on by name to adhere to that Treaty.  He called for the implementation of General Assembly resolutions and Security Council resolutions in order to establish for a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

MILAD ATIEH ( Syria) said that Israel, which had acquired nuclear weapons outside the NPT regime, was being completely ignored.  Moreover, it was actually being supported, while NPT States parties were being deprived of acquiring nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  Israel’s “wholesale expansionist policies” were based on a huge arsenal of both conventional and non-conventional weapons, prominent among them, nuclear weapons.  Israel managed a very dangerous nuclear programme, which threatened security, both regionally and globally.  And, it was not under IAEA safeguards.  More than any other region, the Middle East was the most exposed to military and security threats.

He said his country had been one of the first to call for a Middle East zone free from all weapons of mass destruction, and it had worked seriously to realize that objective.  A recent initiative had been its submission of draft resolution to the Security Council in December 2003, on behalf of the Arab group, on freeing the Middle East from all weapons of mass destruction, in particular, nuclear weapons.  He looked forward to international support to adopt a clear call on Israel to adhere to the NPT and to finding an effective mechanism to bring about the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region.

REZA NAJAFI ( Iran) said that nuclear-weapon-free zones were recognized as a regional instrument to strengthen regional and international peace and security.  Such zones were instrumental in preventing the threat of nuclear war, and were in conformity with the provisions of the final document of the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament.  Three decades had elapsed since Iran had first submitted the idea for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, in 1974.  The resolutions on the establishment of such a zone in the region had been adopted by the General Assembly since 1980 without a vote, administration of the significance of that noble idea. 

He said that Iran, by renouncing the nuclear option and placing its nuclear facilities under the IAEA system, had shown its determination to achieve the total elimination of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons.  Such an act had underscored Iran’s undiminished support for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, with the ultimate objective of ridding the world of those weapons.  Iran ratified the IAEA statute in 1958 and, subsequently, signed the NPT in 1969, which its parliament ratified in 1970.  That process had been furthered by the ratification of the IAEA Safeguards Agreement in 1973, and further accomplished by the signing of the Additional Protocol in 2003. 

In implementing its NPT obligation, specifically Articles II and III, all of Iran’s nuclear facilities were devoted to peaceful purposes and under full-scope IAEA safeguards, he went on.  In order to contribute to realizing a world free from weapons of mass destruction, particularly in the Middle East, Iran had also joined the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention and the 1925 Geneva Protocol.  Owing to Israel’s non-adherence to the NPT, and more importantly, its refusal to place its regime under the IAEA system, the realization of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East had not materialized. As requested by the General Assembly in last year’s resolution on the subject, the Secretary-General would inform the Assembly of the results of consultations with countries in the region on the realization of that idea.  Pursuant to that quest, the Secretary-General should dispatch a special envoy to countries in the region for consultations, aimed at facilitating the establishment of such the zone. 

Israel was the only non-party to the NPT in the region, despite repeated calls by the international community, the 1995 resolution of the NPT review, and other related resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly, he said.  Israel, confident of the political and military support of the United States, had neither acceded to the NPT nor placed its nuclear facilities under full-scope IAEA safeguards, or declared its intention to accede to the NPT.  Israel’s clandestine nuclear activities seriously threatened regional and international peace and security, and endangered the NPT regime.  He firmly supported an agreed plan of action and timetable for universal adherence to the NPT in the Middle East.  There should be enough pressure on Israel to accede to the Treaty and place all its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, in order to pave the way for the long-sought goal of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region.

LARBI EL HADJ ALI ( Algeria), once again, tabled the draft resolution on strengthening security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region (document A/C.1/60/L.47), on behalf of the co-sponsors.  By introducing the text on a regular basis, the co-sponsors were showing their dedication to making the area one of peace and stability.  They reiterated their willingness to promote cooperation and solidarity in an area rich in its potential and culture.  Destiny had made it necessary to have an in-depth dialogue, calling for a multiplication of common initiatives to bring together the two shores of the Mediterranean.  The Barcelona conference had laid the framework for new relations, and had recognized the privilege and characteristics of the region.  As in past years, he sought the draft’s adoption without a vote.

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For information media • not an official record 

Document symbol: GA/DIS/3305
Document Type: Press Release
Document Sources: General Assembly
Subject: Arms control and regional security issues
Publication Date: 17/10/2005

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