Russia is ready to support the process of creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Such a statement was made by Russia's Permanent Representative to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, during his speech at the UN Conference on this issue.

“We would like to assure you that the Conference participants can firmly count on the support from Russia, which, as one of the three co-sponsors of the 1995 resolution, is fully aware of its role in contributing to progress,” Ulyanov’s words are quoted on the website of the Russian Permanent Mission to the UN.

Ulyanov stressed that the work on the formation of a free zone is of fundamental importance not only for the region, but also in the context of global efforts to non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“Of course, it is regrettable that Israel and the United States are not participating in the event. Of particular concern in this context is the approach of Washington, which does not make the slightest effort to fulfill its obligations as one of the three co-sponsors of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, as well as the obligations arising from the outcome of the 2010 Review Conference on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty. ” - emphasized Mikhail Ulyanov.

The resolution on the need to create a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, which was mentioned by Mikhail Ulyanov, was signed at the 1995 conference to review the operation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Then it was decided to extend the NPT indefinitely, which was signed by 190 countries. At the same time, a number of states - Israel, India and Pakistan - did not join the treaty.

Then the countries of the Middle East agreed to extend the agreement, but in exchange for this they demanded to include two promises in the text of the document: the first - that the NPT will extend its effect to all countries, including Israel, and the second - that the whole The Middle East region will be completely liberated from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. However, both of these promises have not yet been fulfilled.

In his address, Mikhail Ulyanov noted that the implementation of steps towards the practical implementation of the resolution almost a quarter century after its adoption is a significant achievement.

Iran issue

Experts note that one of the main obstacles to creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East is Israel’s position - the country refuses to sign the NPT, citing threats from Iran and other Middle Eastern countries.

  • Construction of Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran
  • © Ahmad Halabisaz / Xinhua

“Israel believes that many threats come from various countries in the region, so if it does not possess nuclear weapons, then, according to Israeli politicians, this will jeopardize the very existence of the state. Israel enjoys US support in this matter, respectively, their positions will be united, ”said Irina Fedorova, senior researcher at the Center for the Study of the Near and Middle East at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in an interview with RT.

In the past, Israel, using precision airstrikes, destroyed nuclear facilities in the Middle East, suggesting that they would be used to make weapons. So, in 1981, the Israeli Air Force destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq. The Israeli military also claims that in 2007, during an air raid, the alleged nuclear reactor in the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor was destroyed.

Israel’s position, which is always supported by the United States, leads to the fact that other countries in the region, such as Iran, do not want to abandon their nuclear programs, Irina Fedorova said.

So, in early November 2019, the Islamic Republic began the fourth stage of reducing its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA). The so-called nuclear deal was concluded in 2015 between Iran, the USA, Russia, China, Germany, France and the UK. Under the agreement, Tehran has committed to seriously limit the nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions from Washington.

However, in May 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the nuclear deal, since, according to Washington, Tehran allegedly violated its terms. At the same time, the other parties to the agreement and the IAEA emphasized that Iran is fulfilling the treaty and is not developing nuclear weapons.

Soon after the US withdrew from the agreement, the Trump administration resumed sanctions against Iran and introduced new ones. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then endorsed Washington’s actions to withdraw from the agreement, calling the document “failure,” and recalled that the Jewish state “was against the nuclear deal from the very beginning.”

According to Irina Fedorova, Tehran’s gradual refusal to fulfill its obligations due to US actions leads to the complete annulment of the JCPOA, which will negatively affect the solution of the problem of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

“If indeed the JCPOA is canceled, then the process of growing threats of nuclear weapons in various countries, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, may turn out to be uncontrolled,” the expert noted.

Discussion area

Speaking at the Conference on the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction, Russia's Permanent Representative Mikhail Ulyanov noted that it could become a platform for solving regional security problems and related issues.

“In our opinion, the Conference can become a convenient platform on the margins of which the interested states of the region can informally discuss related topics related to security issues in the region. Of course, the decision on this subject should be made by the participants of the process themselves, ”Ulyanov noted.

The Russian diplomat emphasized that Russia is firmly convinced that the Middle East states themselves have a decisive role and primary responsibility in creating a free zone.

  • Worker at a uranium conversion facility in Isfahan
  • Reuters
  • © Caren Firouz

“Nobody can and should not impose anything on them in this context. For our part, we are ready to provide all-round expert and political support in this work, if colleagues from the Middle East see this as necessary, ”emphasized Mikhail Ulyanov.

According to Boris Dolgov, a leading researcher at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a number of states in the Middle East, including Iran, are ready to help create a zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

“However, this is a rather complicated issue, since some states, in particular Israel, which possesses nuclear weapons, although it does not officially declare this, are not too welcoming to this idea. But if this proposal is accepted and Iran will not develop such weapons, the question will arise of eliminating any foreign military facilities in the region where this type of weapon is also possible. Russia has always advocated the creation of such a zone and clearly defined its attitude to this problem, ”the political scientist noted.

In turn, Irina Fedorova believes that Russia can use its authority to create such a format for the interaction of countries, but the success of efforts to create a zone free of weapons of mass destruction will depend on regional powers.

“This process will be difficult, as agreements will be required not only with a wide variety of countries, but also with political forces within these countries. Such negotiations will be difficult, but with the good will of all states, they can be successful, ”the expert summed up.