Iran urges intl. community to make U.S., Israel to agree to nuclear free zone Middle East

November 19, 2019

TEHRAN - Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, said on Monday that the international community must compel the United States and the Zionist regime of Israel to fulfil their commitments in establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

“The international community must make the United States and Israel behave responsibly and fulfil nuclear commitments,” Takht-Ravanchi said in a statement read at the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The conference, underway in New York, began on November 18 and will last until November 22. 

The president-designate of the first session is Ambassador Sima Bahous of Jordan.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East which has nuclear weapons. Being supported by the United States, it has been blocking all efforts by the United Nations and the international community to make the region a WMD-free zone.

Takht-Ravanchi said that the main obstacles are the weapons of mass destruction held by Israel, which is supported by the U.S., and the unwillingness of the U.S. to engage in the conference.

Elsewhere, he noted that Iran welcomes a Middle East without weapons of mass destruction.

He added that this policy of Iran has roots in “Islamic teachings”, “wise calculations”, “national interests” and “bitter experience of Saddam’s chemical attacks on Iran.”

Saddam Hussein, who was ruling Iraq until March 2003, used chemical weapons against Iranian forces and civilians during the war that he launched against Iran in September 1980 and lasted until the summer of 1988.

Takht-Ravanchi noted that a refusal by the U.S. and Israel to participate in the conference shows they seek a failure of the conference.

According to Press TV, a few days ago, the U.S. announced it would not participate in the conference “because of Israel,” according to Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna.

“The Americans refused to take part because Israel refuses to participate,” said Mikhail Ulyanov.

NHK also reported that Israel and the United States were absent from the conference.

Egypt proposed in 1974 the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The idea saw no progress for over four decades because of the conflict between Israel and the Arab countries.

But the UN General Assembly decided last year to seek to realize the idea.

At Monday's meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that such a zone can put a permanent end to the possibility of nuclear conflict in the region.

Saudi Arabia and other countries condemned Israel.

Observers say the absence of Israel and the U.S. highlight the difficulties in realizing the initiative.

The UN chief said the zone would have significance beyond the region. 

“I therefore hope this Conference will serve as the start of an inclusive process in which all the States of the region can participate,” Guterres said. 

Mark Fitzpatrick, an associate fellow and former executive director at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), wrote in a commentary in May 2019 that if world leaders backed some achievable arms-control initiatives in the Middle East, genuine progress could be made toward establishing a WMD-free zone in the region. 

The Middle East-focused meeting marks the first session of a conference that will be held annually until a legally binding treaty for the nuclear-free zone is agreed, according to news.un.org. 

The UN chief hoped participants will be inspired by the example set by Latin America and the Caribbean, where the first zone was proposed in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. 

“Despite the tensions and politics of the Cold War, countries of the region persevered and in 1967 established a flexible and durable arrangement, which has served as a model for all such successive zones,” he said. 

“Let us be guided by their experience – and those of other regions – as we advance in all of our efforts across the disarmament agenda.” 

NA/PA

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