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21 November 2011 | Vienna, Austria
Forum on Experience of Possible Relevance to Creation of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (NWFZ) in Middle East

Statement at Middle East Forum

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has taken us 11 years to get to this point, but I am very pleased to welcome you, finally, to this IAEA Forum on Experience of Possible Relevance to the Creation of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East.

Each of the five nuclear-weapon-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.

All nuclear-weapon-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-weapon-free zones are a highly relevant and effective means of non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament.

In establishing and implementing nuclear-weapon-free zones, the countries concerned have learned the importance of dialogue. It is my hope that this meeting will help to promote dialogue on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

There is broad international support for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. But, among countries of the Middle East region and beyond, there are also 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.

The Forum provides a unique opportunity for us all to learn about, compare and discuss experience and practice to date. I hope 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.

I thank Ambassador Jan Petersen of Norway for agreeing to my request to chair this Forum. I know he intends to lead the participants in an interactive and constructive discussion.

I welcome representatives from the existing nuclear-weapon-free zones in Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa and Central Asia, as well as from Euratom and ABACC. They have a wealth of experience to share with us.

I encourage you to discuss, actively and openly, the benefits of nuclear-weapon-free zones, difficulties encountered in creating them, and the ways in which such difficulties were resolved. I look forward to the contributions from our panellists, from States of the Middle East and from States with experience of membership in a nuclear-weapon-free zone. I also expect useful contributions from IAEA Member States, including Mongolia with its unique experience as a single-State zone.

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.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.