Iran on Tuesday [Nov. 6] said it would attend a planned summit on establishing the Middle East as a zone free of atomic armaments and other unconventional weapons, Reuters reported.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran now finally has decided to participate at the conference in Finland, in Helsinki, in December on a Middle East [nuclear weapons] free zone,” according to Ali Asghar Soltanieh,Tehran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Soltanieh joined a high-ranking diplomat from Israel and others on Monday [Nov. 5] in Brussels, Belgium, for informal multilateral discussions addressing the potential for convening the WMD-free zone
event, the London Guardian reported.
State participants at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference formally called for the WMD-free zone gathering, which is tentatively due to take place next month. It has been uncertain whether Iran would attend if the event occurs, while Israel’s participation remains in question.
Tel Aviv is widely believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed government, while a
number of nations suspect Iran of seeking a nuclear-weapon capability.
This week’s two-day European Union Nonproliferation Consortium event — officially designated to be scholarly in nature — also included Finnish diplomat and conference “facilitator” Jaakko Laajava, U.S. go
vernment personnel, European arbiters and delegates from 10 Arab nations.
Israeli and Iranian insiders did not formally represent their governments at the session. Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General Jeremy Issacharoff headed a team from his country, while an Iranian group traveled to the event under Soltanieh.
One attendee said the gathering was “respectful and positive,” while former U.S. State Department analyst Mark Fitzpatrick said the proceedings saw “no fireworks and no denunciations.” The atmosphere was more confrontational at a comparable 2011 session, according to the Guardian.
Still, it was uncertain if the planned WMD-free zone conference was on-track to start in 2012 as NPT review conference participants specified in 2010. Insiders appeared set to delay the event beyond December, according to an October report by The Hill newspaper. Still, their posture might be aimed at preventing campaign-season accusations that the Obama administration had pressed Tel Aviv to engage in dialogue with Tehran, the Guardian said.
The administration’s plans would become apparent after voting concludes in the United States, according to one of two lower-level U.S. government workers attending this week’s exchange. A lack of clarity over timing has prompted attendees at the present gathering to refer to the prospective WMD-free zone session as the “Helsinki conference” instead of the “2012 conference,” the insider added.
Middle Eastern states would have to end violent conflict and acknowledge the Israeli state’s legitimacy before Israel would consider joining the global nonproliferation regime, Tel Aviv has indicated.
Still, the planned Helsinki session could prompt Israel toward providing more information about its atomic activities if Iran and Arab nations agreed to refrain from pursuing nuclear armaments, according to European intermediaries.
Global Security Newswire
Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)
November 6, 2012