This is the final report to come out of a roundtable workshop held by BASIC in Istanbul on October 24-25th, 2012 on preparing for the Helsinki conference on nuclear and WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Participants included Jaakko Laajava, facilitator for the Conference on a nuclear and WMD-free zone in the Middle East, and senior officials and experts from the region and beyond. Discussions were broad, but were based on preparation for the Helsinki conference and its objectives. Participants in this intimate roundtable engaged on countries’ commitments to this process and the importance of involvement by all countries of the region and how to make this a success. Ideas about the scope of the agenda and reassurances to countries were also discussed.
The workshop highlighted that there are significant coordination problems in this project to work towards a WMD-free zone. No one state can deliver alone, and all states need to recognise the assurance needs their potential negotiating parties will be looking for. This process is about building a safer region for all states that call the Middle East home, with clear incentives for all parties involved, but while leaders remain unprepared to take risks in meeting their competitors half way, there is little chance of success. Officials have to reflect on just how committed they really are to this process, and consider how they might abandon the demands of the past of move forward in everyone’s interests. There may be some scope to engage in depoliticised technical talks to design a regional zone agreement that brings greater confidence and verification, alongside broader regional security talks. Whatever approach is taken, agreement between the states in the region on an agenda and modalities for the conference are key to its success.
Read the full report below.