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IAEA to Host Forum on Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone for Middle East

2 September 2011 | The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is to host a forum among its Member States to consider how the experience of Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zones (NWFZ) in several regions of the world could be relevant to the Middle East.

In a letter to Member States, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano indicates that the Forum on Experience of Possible Relevance to the Creation of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East will be held at the Agency's headquarters in Vienna on 21-22 November 2011.

Reflecting the consensus of the IAEA's Member States on the importance of establishing such a zone, it will consider the experience of the five existing NWFZs1.

The main focus of the Forum would be to:

  1. study the lessons of other regions in terms of the context that prevailed there before a NWFZ was considered;
  2. review existing, multilaterally agreed principles for establishing such zones;
  3. review the theory and practice of establishing the five existing NWFZs;
  4. discuss the experience of representatives from the five NWFZs in setting up and implementing such zones; and
  5. discuss the region of the Middle East in this context.

The gathering follows a request by Member States at the IAEA's General Conference in 2000 that the Director General convene a forum where participants from the Middle East and other interested parties could learn from the experience of NWFZs in other regions. Agreement on holding such a meeting proved elusive for over a decade, but a letter in March 2011 from Director General Yukiya Amano to Member States of the Middle East region led to consultations indicating that a forum was possible this year.

1 Nuclear-weapon-free zones have already been established in Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa and Central Asia. The treaties contain certain variations, but all five cover large inhabited areas and all are designed to ensure the total absence of nuclear weapons from the territories of the States party to them. They also provide for IAEA verification of the non-diversion of nuclear material and for the establishment of regional mechanisms to deal with compliance problems; and contain a protocol providing for the nuclear-weapon States party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to commit themselves not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapon State party to the NWFZ Treaty in question.

NWFZs have also been established in certain uninhabited areas - Antarctica, outer space and the sea bed.