Finland to host 2012 conference on WMD free zone in Middle East

Finnish Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Laajava

Finnish Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Laajava

Finland has been designated as the host country for the planned conference in 2012 on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Jaakko Laajava, Under-Secretary of State in the Finnish Foreign Ministry, has been announced as the facilitator for the conference. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and representatives from the United States, Russia, and Britain announced the decision on October 14th in New York.

Finland was also the host country for the first Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which led to a major de-escalation of tension in Europe during the Cold War and was the predecessor to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It is a neutral country and has a long history of involvement in conflict resolution, including the efforts of its former President Ahtisaari, who is now Special Envoy for the UN to Kosovo.

The conference emerged as the one condition that would allow consensus on a final document at the NPT Review Conference in May 2010, but is judged by many experts to be extremely difficult to realise, especially given the present political situation in the Middle East. The intention is that the conference will be attended by all the Arab states, and by the regional arch-enemies Iran and Israel, although neither country made any immediate comment on their attendance. It is also expected that the officially recognised nuclear weapon states will also be represented. Laajava said that the list of participants will firm up as a result of discussions he will have with the countries concerned, in his role as facilitator. The exact date for the conference has not been set, but it is planned to take place in 2012.

Anne Penketh, program director for the British American Security Information Council (BASIC),  said the low-key announcement on a Friday which is not a working day in the Middle East, is “a case of burying good news.”

Patricia Lewis, deputy director of the nonproliferation center at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, said the fact that all the Arab states, Israel and Iran, Russia, Britain and the United States agreed on the facilitator and the host “shows a strong commitment to moving forward with efforts to promote peace and disarmament in the Middle East.”

More news on announcement here: UN News Centre; Helsingin Sanomat; San Francisco Chronicle

Hacia la abolición de las armas nucleares

Durante años, básicamente la segunda mitad del Siglo XX, todas las preocupaciones en materia de armamentismo se centraron en las armas nucleares. Documentos, propuestas, iniciativas y campañas varias reclamaban un mayor control o un progresivo desarme de este tipo de armas. Un esfuerzo, cabe decir, saldado con poco éxito: un Tratado de No-Proliferación Nuclear (TNP) poco ambicioso en sus inicios e irresponsablemente gestionado por parte de las potencias nucleares.

» Read article by Jordi Armadans Director de la Fundació per la Pau

Setting sights on 2012

Hillel Schenkel, co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal ‏ and member of IPPNW in Israel, writes in Haaretz: «While all eyes are focused on Libya, Syria and other regional venues of political drama, Israelis have probably forgotten − if they were ever aware − that, at last May’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, it was resolved that in 2012 an international conference would be convened to discuss “the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the States of the region, and with the full support and engagement of the nuclear-weapon States.” The resolution also called upon Israel to sign the NPT and open its nuclear installations to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.»

Read full article on Haaretz website