A three-day conference on nuclear weapons and the Middle East was organized by the Arab Institute for Security Studies (Amman, Jordan) and the Partnership for Global Security (Washington DC) in Cairo, Egypt, October 19-21, 2010. Entitled “The Nuclear Forum: Prospects for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament: Beyond the 2010 NPT Review Conference and the Nuclear Security Summit,” the meeting brought together some 170 experts and diplomats from throughout the Middle East and the globe, including Austria, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Twelve ambassadors to Egypt participated, and some three dozen media organizations covered the event.
The primary goal of the conference was to address the challenges to establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical, and biological – in the Middle East. This question has become all the more pressing with agreement at the recent 2010 Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in New York to organize a 2012 meeting in the Middle East concerning a nuclear weapons-free zone. The April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in Washington DC also has raised concerns about the security of fissile material in commercial and research power reactors.
Dr. Paul F. Walker, director of the Green Cross/Global Green Security and Sustainability Program, facilitated a panel on the third day regarding fissile material security and the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit planned in South Korea. Presenters and discussants emphasized that fissile material security is a “lifetime concern,” not just a four-year goal established at the April NSS in Washington DC; they also underlined the importance of greater cooperation among key stakeholders, including government officials, private sector representatives, and civil society experts, for real progress to be achieved in the Korean summit. Emphasis was placed on the need to phase out the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium in both commercial and military processes.
Much discussion also was focused around the “Faustian bargain” in the NPT, that is, the promise of civilian use of atomic energy, but also the need to apply intrusive international inspection regimes to help guarantee the non-development and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials. Several speakers suggested that regional approaches, under auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or other inspection regimes, to the nuclear fuel cycle were worth considering.
Participants agreed that the multilateral arms control regimes, including the NPT, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) all needed to be “universalized,” that is, inclusive of current non-member states such as India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan and, in the CWC case, Syria, Egypt, and others. Discussants also addressed the problem of “double standards” in the NPT regime – the fact that the P-5 nuclear powers (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States) have different inspection standards than the non-nuclear members and that a “level playing field” needs to be imposed on all arms control regimes.
The conference was organized in cooperation with the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, the Egyptian Pugwash Association, the Fissile Materials Working Group, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands, and the Stanley Foundation. Additional information can be found at www.fmwg.org and www.stanleyfoundation.org.