30 April 2013, Vol. 11, No. 7

Discussions about consultations for convening a conference that could lead to a process
Beatrice Fihn | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

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“We cannot continue to attend meetings and agree on outcomes that do not get implemented, yet to be expected to abide by the concessions we gave for this outcome.” This is how Ambassador Badr of Egypt explained his government’s withdrawal from the remainder of the NPT Preparatory Committee. This protest against the failure to implement the 1995 resolution on the Middle East provided a dramatic end to the afternoon’s discussion on the subject.

In the months leading up to the PrepCom, threats of a boycott from the Arab states were circulated, but not executed. Most Arab states have, however, expressed their frustration with the situation throughout this PrepCom, but did not join Egypt in the walk-out.

On Monday afternoon, the facilitator of the WMD conference, Ambassador Jaakko Laajava of Finland, delivered a short report to the PrepCom He noted that as “not all states” have taken a position regarding participation or arrangement of the conference, “it was not possible to convene a Conference in 2012 as planned.” Following the postponement of the conference, Ambassador Laajava proposed holding multilateral consultations on the topic as soon as possible and urged states to be constructive toward this end.

The Arab League questioned the lack of agenda and framework for these consultations. It said it was ready to participate in such consultations if it was held under UN auspices and with an “appropriate” agenda attached to the invitation. The US, on the other hand, stated that an “agenda simply cannot be dictated from outside the region—it must be consensual among the States who must live with the agenda”. The US delegationalso argued that “pre-conditions on a dialogue serves only to delay its initiation, without changing its substance.”

The suggestion of holding a preparatory meeting for the conference is arguably a step backwards for holding the actual conference. The international community has resorted to having discussions about multilateral consultations that could lead to the convening of a conference that could discuss a process for the possible establishment of a WMD free zone in the Middle East. We are so far away from the real goal and with so many potential stumbling points ahead of us that it is difficult to keep focused.

Strong willingness to engage in constructive negotiations by states in the region and the co-sponsors remains essential for progress. Currently, there is a significant risk that all states voice support for a WMD free zone while blaming others for standing in the way of its success. 18 years after the resolution was adopted, progress on the Middle East is necessary to prevent further undermining of the NPT regime.

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