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Parliamentarians vital in supporting a nuclear weapons-free Middle East

October 20, 2011
Contact: Alyn Ware +1 646 752 8702

"Parliamentarians have a vital role in supporting the establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction," says Baroness Sue Miller, Member of the UK House of Lords and Co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), a global network of parliamentarians from over 80 countries working to prevent nuclear proliferation and achieve a nuclear weapons-free world.

"A great step towards this goal was made last week with the appointment of a host country and facilitator for a UN-sponsored conference to establish such a zone," says Baroness Miller.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - along with the governments of Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, in consultation with countries in the Middle East– have appointed Jaakko Laajava, Under-Secretary of State in Finland's foreign ministry, as the facilitator for the UN-sponsored conference, to be attended by all States in the region. Finland was announced as the host country.

"The United Nations has annually adopted a consensus resolution, i.e. one including support of all States in the region, calling for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East," says PNND Global Coordinator Alyn Ware, "but governments by themselves have not been able to develop the political momentum or bridge the political divides to achieve this vital goal. Parliamentarians can collaborate across borders to ensure success."

PNND, at its Annual Assembly in Bern over the weekend, thus agreed to circulate a Joint Parliamentary Statement for a Middle East Zone Free from Nuclear Weapons and all other Weapons of Mass Destruction." PNND has consulted with officials and disarmament experts in Israel, Arab countries and Iran on a balanced approach to peace and disarmament in the Middle East, and the role of parliamentarians," says Mr Ware. "We are now circulating the statement to parliamentarians in the region and around the world to build support." PNND is also participating in the Amman Framework, Peace Boat Horizon 2012 and other collaborative initiatives to support the UN-sponsored conference.

"Parliamentarians have been vital in the establishment of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones in other regions including Antarctica, Latin America and the Caribbean, South Pacific, Africa, South East Asia and Central Asia," says Hon Matt Robson, PNND Council Member and the former New Zealand Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control. "Most of these zones were difficult to achieve, including countries or territories that were involved in nuclear testing, deployment or extended nuclear deterrence doctrines. The experience in overcoming these difficulties to develop security without nuclear weapons can encourage success in the Middle East."

"Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zones, such as the one we have achieved in Africa, help prevent proliferation and nuclear terrorism, and are part of the framework for building common security and a nuclear weapons-free world," says PNND Co-President David Coltart, Zimbabwe Minister for Education, Culture, Sports and Arts. "The $100 billion wasted annually on nuclear weapons should instead be dedicated to redressing economic and social needs including education, health, housing, jobs, water, food, fair trade policies and poverty reduction."