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Ban on Nuclear Weapons in Middle East Receives Support at NPT Conference

  • Margaret Besheer

Major powers, regional players and others endorsed establishing a ban on nuclear weapons in the Middle East during Wednesday's session of a conference to review the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In 1995 signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) adopted a resolution calling for the creation of nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, but it has yet to be implemented.

Russian delegate, Anatoly Antonov, speaking on behalf of the permanent five members of the Security Council - Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States - said the group is committed to the full implementation of the resolution.

"And in particular, we are committed to a full implementation of the 1995 NPT resolution on the Middle East, and we support on-going efforts to achieve this objective," said Anatoly Antonov. "We will be ready to consider all relevant proposals."

Egypt, as chair of the 118 nations of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), has been circulating a proposal calling for a conference by next year on a Middle East nuclear weapons-free zone.

"The need is all greater today for the effective and comprehensive implementation of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, especially after 15 years during which no effort was exerted by the three depositories of the treaty, despite the fact that those states submitted the draft resolution, co-sponsored it, and sought its adoption," said Egypt's U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz.

Egypt also urged Israel - the only country in the region believed to already possess nuclear weapons - to declare them and join the NPT.

Other than Israel, nuclear states India and Pakistan are the only other nations which have not signed on to the NPT. North Korea announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003, and subsequently carried out two nuclear tests.

Iran, which is a member of the NPT, is widely believed to be pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program - a charge it denies. Analysts say if Iran gets a bomb it could spark an arms race in the region.