On Monday, 21 November 2011, IAEA Member States will gather in Vienna at the IAEA headquarters to attend a Forum, convened by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, to discuss how the experience gained through the established Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zones (NWFZ) could be relevant to the Middle East.
Over one and half days, the Forum will include detailed briefings and interactive discussion of the lessons gained in establishing and maintaining the five existing NWFZs, as well as detailing how the NWFZs support cooperation, regional stability and security, as well as regional arms control and disarmament agreements. These presentations will also offer issues of potential relevance that these experiences may have for the Middle East.
Presenters from the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) and the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC) will provide insights into relevant verification matters.
The Chairman of the Conference, Ambassador Jan Petersen of Norway, said that the Member States had expressed a clear will to hold the Forum and to utilize this opportunity as a learning experience. He said that the IAEA's Forum was a long-standing, independent activity "whose success will be a contribution towards a NWFZ in the Middle East."
At the IAEA's General Conference in 2000, the Member States requested the Director General to convene a Forum on Experience of Possible Relevance to the Creation of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East.
Agreement on holding such a meeting proved elusive for over a decade. In March 2011, following a letter from the Director General to Member States in the Middle East region, the subsequent consultations indicated that a Forum was possible this year.
Nuclear-weapon-free zones have already been established in Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa and Central Asia. All five Treaties cover large inhabited areas and 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.