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Forum on Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone for Middle East Opens in Vienna

Fukushima

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano delivers his opening statement at the Forum on Experience of Possible Relevance to the Creation of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone in the Middle East, 21 November 2011

Representatives from IAEA Member States are meeting at the IAEA headquarters for a one-and-a-half day Forum to discuss how the experience gained through the established Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zones (NWFZ) could be relevant to the Middle East. Convened by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, the Forum will include briefings and interactive discussion of the lessons gained in establishing and maintaining the five existing NWFZs in Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa and Central Asia.

"It has taken us 11 years to get to this point," Director General Yukiya Amano said in his opening statement to participants of the Forum.

"Each of the five nuclear-weapons-free-zones already in existence today, covering a total of 113 countries, has its own special characteristics, but they also have many important elements in common," Mr. Amano pointed out.

"All nuclear-weapons-free-zones prohibit the development, stationing or testing of nuclear weapons in their respective regions. They all cover large inhabited areas. They provide for IAEA verification of the non-diversion of nuclear material. They have brought real security benefits, both regionally and to the whole world. I have long been convinced that nuclear-weapons-free-zones are a highly relevant and effective means of non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament."

There is broad international support for the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free-zone in the Middle East, Mr. Amano also said, although there remain long-standing differences of view related to the establishment of such a zone and the application of comprehensive Agency safeguards to all nuclear activities in the region.

Mr. Amano said the Forum provides a unique opportunity to learn, compare and discuss experience and practice of maintaining NWFZs to date, and expressed hope that it will nurture fresh thinking - creative thinking - on the possible relevance of the experience of the five existing nuclear-weapon-free zones to the Middle East.

"It is my earnest hope that your discussion will be creative and constructive, moving beyond simply re-stating long-established positions. For the sake of all the inhabitants of the region, as well as for international peace and security, I wish this Forum every success," he concluded.

Click here to read Mr. Amano's complete statement.

-- by Rodolfo Quevenco, IAEA Division of Public Information