Egypt Escalates 'War on Nuclear Weapons'

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Arab Countries | Credit: Public DomainNuclear Abolition News | IDN

By Fareed Mahdy
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

ISTANBUL (IDN) – Strongly backed by Arab countries and Turkey, Egypt has escalated its intensive diplomatic offensive for freeing the Middle East of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction, starting with nuclear arms. [P | ARABIC | GERMAN | JAPANESE PDF - TEXT VERSION | TURKISH PDF - TEXT VERSION]

Only few days ahead of the May 3-28 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review conference in New York, Egyptian diplomacy has reiterated in different fora its nearly 40-year old claim that the long-troubled Middle East region must be free of atomic arsenal.

In a latest development, Egypt has submitted to all parties involved in the New York meeting, a working paper through which it calls on the conference to “regret that no progress has been achieved for the implementation of the 1995 (UN) resolution” that confirmed previous resolutions to free the region from nuclear weapons.

The Egyptian document also calls for a conference to be held by 2011 with the participation of all countries in the region to work out a formal accord ensuring their effective commitment to free the Middle East from nuclear arms.

NUCLEAR ISRAEL

Israel is the sole Middle East country that reportedly possesses nuclear weapons, with over 200 warheads, equivalent to more than double of the atomic arsenals in India and Pakistan.

Israel insists on keeping its military nuclear programme under strict secretiveness, while systematically refusing to join the NPT.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to participate in the Nuclear Security Summit organized by President Barack Obama in Washington on April 13-14. Netanyahu is also expected to desert the NPT Review conference.

The Egyptian paper to the delegations to the New York conference is reported to have the firm support of all Arab countries, a number of African, Asian and Latin American countries as well as Turkey and possibly also France and Scandinavian states.

While the U.S. may not support the Egyptian proposal for the immediate liberation of the Middle East from all weapons of mass destruction, it would not “veto” it.

NON-PROLIFERATION

As the NPT Review conference approached, the Egyptian Foreign Affairs ministry launched on April 26 a call on “all States to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

A Foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement that, through its participation in the Review conference, “Egypt wants to ensure the accession of all States to this NPT.”

The spokesperson underscored that the non-accession by Israel to the NPT not only jeopardizes security and peace in the region, but also makes them unviable.

The spokesperson stressed that the objective of freeing the Middle East from all weapons of mass destruction is not new, and that his country has been working for achieving it through international fora and groups of countries that “share our thinking, in particular Arab and African countries and also some European states.”

IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAMME

Commenting on the ongoing developments regarding the Iranian nuclear programme, the official spokesman said, “The Egyptian stance is that the Iranian nuclear dossier needs to be dealt out politically, not through military actions”.

“We reject the military option; we encourage Western countries concerned with this issue to act politically. We reject any military action because of the consequences it may bring to security and stability in the region.”

The Egyptian spokesperson underscored that “certainly all states have the right to benefit from the advantages that the NPT offers regarding the peaceful use of nuclear power. But, at the same time, NPT member states must stick to the Treaty's provisions.”

THE EGYPTIAN STANCE

Meanwhile, another Egyptian official source -- the Egypt State Information Service (SIS) has disseminated one week ahead of the NPT Review conference, an official document briefing on Cairo's position.

In its introduction, it says that the “Egyptian vision for achieving peace and stability in the (Middle East) region is based on fundaments and principals such as the fair, just solution of the Palestinian cause and the integral implementation of all resolutions based on international legitimacy.”

It also stresses the principle of “respect of states' independence and sovereignty, including keeping the region far away from arms races, in particular those of mass destruction, and liberating the region from all kinds of them.”

The Egyptian stance in the New York conference will stress that, since 1961, all Egyptian governments have followed a “clear and totally transparent position” vis-à-vis nuclear weapons and in general all weapons of mass destruction (atomic, biological and chemicals).

It will insist on its plan “to free the Middle East of these weapons, starting with nuclear arms, and that all countries in the region join all international agreements that ban the possession, proliferation, production and use of these arms, as well as all related testing”.

Cairo will also demand that all Middle East countries “be submitted to all international control and inspection systems, with no exception for any state or any weapon of mass destruction, under any circumstance.”

KEY POINTS

The Egyptian position is based on the following key points:

-- The possession of weapons of mass destruction does not guarantee security to any (Middle East) country; this will be ensured only through a just, comprehensive peace;

-- The lack of “any positive step” from Israel regarding the nuclear weapons issue and the Middle East liberation of arms of mass destruction, as well as its position based on the 'military superiority doctrine', will only contribute to deepening regional security unbalance;

-- In its call for the total elimination of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction in the region, Egypt rejects any sort of discrimination or 'partialization' that might be considered upon the will of any party in the Middle East;

-- Egypt rejects any possible 'selectiveness' of any weapon or any country, and rejects any concession of any special status to any country in the region;

-- The process of disarming the Middle East of all kind of weapons of mass destruction must be carried out under international-comprehensive supervision, in particular by the United Nations and its agencies.

-- Egypt demands the implementation of the several UN resolutions calling for freeing the Middle East from nuclear weapons, in particular the UN Security Council resolution number 487 adopted in 1981.

'NO' TO U.S. NUCLEAR UMBRELLA

Cairo has rejected a U.S. offer last year to guarantee defence of the region against atomic weapons as part of a comprehensive Middle East peace plan.

Nuclear umbrella is usually used for the security alliances of the U.S. with non-nuclear states such as Japan, South Korea, much of Europe, Turkey, Canada, and Australia, originating with the Cold War with the then Soviet Union. For some countries it was an alternative to acquiring nuclear weapons themselves.

In fact, on August 18, 2009, during his first visit to Washington in five years, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak insisted with U.S. President Barack Obama that "what the Middle East needs is peace, security, stability and development", not nuclear weapons.

Mubarak reaffirmed Egypt's pledge underlying the country's commitment since 1974 for the establishment of a "nuclear free Middle East".

Pre-empting discussion on the issue, Mubarak said in an exclusive interview with the leading Egyptian daily Al Ahram on August 17, 2009: "Egypt will not be part of any American nuclear umbrella intended to protect the Gulf countries".

PEACE, NOT NUKES

Such an umbrella, he said, "would imply accepting foreign troops and experts on our land -- and we do not accept that". Mubarak also emphasized that a U.S. nuclear umbrella “would imply an implicit acceptance that there is a regional nuclear power --we do not accept that either.”

The Egyptian president asserted that “the Middle East does not need any nuclear powers, be they Iran or Israel -- what we need is peace, security, stability and development". In any case, "we have not received any official communication regarding such a proposal", he added.

On the same day, Ambassador Suleiman Awad, spokesperson of the Egyptian Presidency, also commented on a U.S. nuclear umbrella in the region.

"This is not the first time the issue is raised; it is part of the U.S. defence policy," the presidential spokesperson said. “What is new is that it is raised now for the Middle East.”

Commenting alleged U.S. nuclear plans in the Middle East, Awad said: "It is absolutely rejectable both in form and contents. Instead of talking about a nuclear umbrella, the Iranian nuclear file should be dealt with (in a spirit of) dialogue and flexibility from both sides, the West and Iran."

He added: "Iran has the right to benefit from the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, like any other country signatory of the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), provided that it proves that its programme is for peaceful uses."

Mubarak's spokesperson underlined: “At the same time, this must be accompanied, simultaneously, by a serious move vis-à-vis Israel's nuclear capacity, in order to avoid accusations of double standards."

THE INITIATIVE

These remarks are in continuity with Egypt's 36-year long campaign aiming at the establishment of a "nuclear free Middle East". In 1990, Mubarak revitalized the Egyptian initiative through a new, larger plan to declare the Middle East a "weapons of mass destruction free region", including nuclear weapons.

The Egyptian initiative has drawn support from Arab countries and has been recently reaffirmed by Amre Musa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, representing all the 22 Arab countries.

Musa, who is member of the “Global Zero” world campaign that works for the elimination of all nuclear weapons from the face of Earth, has repeatedly declared: "It is a must to free the Middle East of nuclear weapons."

ARAB AFRICANS

The Egyptian offensive relies on the support of Arab countries, 9 of which are located in Africa, a continent that was declared, also in 2009, a nuclear-free zone. Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, Chad, Djibouti and Somalia are all full members of the League Of Arab States.

Turkey, a growing regional power with an increasing influence in the Middle East is expected to be among the key supporters to the Egyptian initiative to declare the region a nuclear-free zone.

YES, BUT...

In spite of massive regional and international support to freeing the Middle East from nuclear and other mass destruction weapons, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon expressed strong doubts about the chances to achieve that goal.

In fact, on April 12, on the very eve of the Washington Nuclear Security Summit, Ban said that the proposal of freeing the Middle East from nuclear weapons has not achieved any progress until now for various reasons, including the political situation on the Middle East peace process.

"We have achieved (progress) in many areas including in Central Asia, where they have agreed and established a nuclear weapons-free zone," but the Middle East nuclear-free zone remains stalled, he said.

Obviously, Ban did not spell out the key reasons preventing that longstanding objective from being achieved—after all Israel is a full UN member-state. (IDN-InDepthNews/29.04.2010)

Copyright © 2010 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

External links:
http://www2.sis.gov.eg/En/EgyptOnline/Politics/000012/0201000000000000011458.htm

http://www2.sis.gov.eg/Ar/Politics/ForeignPolicy/InterIssues/mass_destruction/041009050000000001.htm

Related IDN articles:
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