By Bernhard Schell
CAIRO, 10 May 2023 (IDN) — Recent developments in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation, with a focus on the Middle East region, has been the centerpiece of a diplomatic forum in Qatar, which has been joined by high-level officials representing 20 Arab League.
One topic of discussion was the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which the Arab League regards as “an important addition to the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime”.
Organised jointly by the Arab League and Qatar's National Committee for the Prohibition of Weapons, the Second Arab Forum on Arms Control, Disarmament, and Non-Proliferation took place in the Qatari capital, Doha, from 2 to 4 May. The 2017 Nobel Peace Laureate, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was invited to attend as a representative of civil society and make a presentation on the TPNW.
Amel El Mejri, ICAN's Arab League liaison, described the forum as an excellent opportunity for officials and experts from Arab states to discuss the vital need for rapid progress towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. “The TPNW is the best tool for creating pressure and momentum towards this end. It has benefits regionally as well as globally,” she said.
Eighteen Arab League states—Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen—voted to adopt the TPNW in 2017. Furthermore, all Arab League states that are UN members supported the UN General Assembly resolution in 2016 to establish the mandate for negotiating this treaty.
When the TPNW entered into force in 2021, the secretary-general of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said that he hoped it would “usher in a new phase and provide an incentive to intensify international efforts to achieve the ultimate goal of getting rid of nuclear weapons once and for all”.
He added that “the time has come to intensify international efforts to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, which is fully compatible with the objectives of the [TPNW]”.
Israelthe only state in the Middle East to possess an arsenal of nuclear weapons—did not participate in the negotiating process for the TPNW in 2017 and has not yet joined the treaty. It has emphasised that it is not obliged by it in any way.
To date, a total of 92 states have signed the TPNW and 68 have ratified or acceded to it, including the Arab League members Algeria (signatory), Comoros (party), Djibouti (signatory), Libya (signatory), Palestine (party), and Sudan (signatory). Most other members have voiced their support for the TPNW in various international forums. Nine members participated either as parties or observers in the first meeting of states parties to the TPNW, which took place in 21-23 June 2022 in Vienna.
In the first committee of the UN General Assembly in October 2022, the group of Arab states described the TPNW as “an important treaty” that closes a major legal gap and represents “a new customary source of international law governing the field of disarmament”. They added that the TPNW “does not contradict” the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, but rather “complements it and pushes the achievement of its objectives”.
At the forum in Qatar in May 2023, ICAN underscored the need to build universal support for the TPNW. “By joining this treaty, states can strengthen the global norm against the use of nuclear weapons, reinforce barriers against proliferation, and create new impetus for disarmament,” said Tim Wright, ICAN’s treaty coordinator. “Each additional signature and ratification is an important contribution to international peace and security.” [IDN-InDepthNews]
Photo: High-level officials in the Second Arab Forum on Arms Control, Disarmament, and Non-Proliferation in Doha. Source: GULF TIMES.