Speech by Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton on behalf of HRVP Catherine Ashton on the recommendations of the Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference regarding the establishment of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction

Strasbourg, 17-1-2013 — /europawire.eu/ — Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

As set out in her statement of 24 November, the High Representative regrets that it was not possible to convene the proposed Conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery within in 2012.

She hopes, as we all do, that the Conference may be convened as soon as possible.

I can assure you in the meantime that the EU will remain fully committed to supporting, however we can, the objective of achieving a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

I would like to commend and support the tireless efforts of Ambassador Jaakko Laajava of Finland, who, as Conference Facilitator, has worked tirelessly for more than a year to lay the groundwork for a successful Conference in which all States of the region will participate. The EU has played its part in supporting Ambassador Laajava, including through two very useful track 2 initiatives. We
will continue to support him.

The EU has been committed to the goal of promoting the establishment of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction for some time. In 1995, of course, the Union and its Member States subscribed to the Barcelona Declaration, as did all the members of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

The objective of achieving such a zone is now ingrained in the Union’s strategy against weapons of mass destruction and has its roots in the 2003 European Security Strategy.

We will spare no efforts to assist the Facilitator in his important ongoing work to lay the groundwork for a successful Conference.

Members will also be aware of the High Representative’s engagement with the Quartet and in EU3+3 dialogue with Iran. It is of course important to remember the broader and often intertwined political and unresolved issues at stake.

In light of the Middle East’s history of conflict and tension and given the many serious political and security challenges which still face the region, it would easy for everybody to fall into the trap of pessimism.

It is important to avoid this. Pessimism has been allowed to prevail too often in efforts towards a Nuclear Free Zone in the Middle East since 1974. It prevailed at the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) talks between Egypt and Israel in the early 1990s. Pessimism can become self-fulfilling. Despite the hopeful changes recently brought about by the emergence of new decision makers, and of new social and economic developments in the region, the danger remains that scepticism and pessimism might prevent similar improvements in regional security.

To borrow the words of John Maynard Keynes, “the difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones, which ramify into every corner of our minds.”

Having come so far, following more than a year of intensive work by the Facilitator and his team, both in the region and beyond, we – the European Union, the wider international community and civil society – must keep the momentum going and look at possible ways forward.

Any attempt to politicize the concept of a zone must be resisted. Multilateral consultations among the concerned countries of the region under the auspices of the Facilitator must continue.

Confidence and trust among the States of the region is crucial; this is the first ingredient of any political dialogue, bilateral or multilateral. The process towards a zone is no exception.

There are issues on which agreement on possible interim steps might be possible, if the actors involved can avoid pessimism and leave behind old ideas. There are confidence building measures to be found, and offered, as the process moves forward.

What is needed is a willingness by each party to engage and to look for possible accommodations, not just from the other side, but from their own.

Honourable Members
This Parliament has been active in supporting this process with its own resolutions on the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), with strong language in support of the establishment of a zone free of all WMDs in the Middle East. The Facilitator was invited on several occasions to debrief the EP on the state of play of his consultations.

The EEAS contributed with two major track 2 /academic seminars on the subject, organized in Brussels in July 2011 and in November 2012 through the EU Non proliferation Consortium of Think Tanks.

The quality of the background papers produced, the frankness of the debates, the broad participation of high level officials alongside academic experts and civil society representatives – including a honourable member of this Parliament, have certainly helped the Facilitator, who attended with his team the meeting in Brussels last 5 and 6 November.

Our commitment to the final goal of a Zone free of all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East has been solid since 1995, and our contribution to the process is unequivocal. Our readiness to assist the Facilitator and his team further is clear.

Finally, while I want to convey the High Representative’s personal hope that the Conference will be convened as soon as possible, and I join her in this, we need to stress the absolute need for the main actors in the region, the conveners, with the active contribution of civil society, to explore and find ways to keep the process moving forward.

What will ultimately determine failure or success is not a single event linked to a stringent deadline but a series of steps that will bring the process each time forward, until the time will be ripe for a win-win solution.

I thank you.


Michael Mann +32 498 999 780 – +32 2 299 97 80 – Michael.Mann@eeas.europa.eu
Maja Kocijancic +32 498 984 425 – +32 2 298 65 70 – Maja.Kocijancic@ec.europa.eu
Sebastien Brabant +32 460 75 09 98 – Sebastien.Brabant@ec.europa.eu


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