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.