Nuclear Free Middle East “High Priority”


Human Wrongs Watch

Q&A with UN General Assembly President

By Ramesh Jaura* – IDN-InDepthNews, New York – UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser is committed to convening an international  conference directed at establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

**Credit: WMD world map - User:Fastfission | Wikimedia Commons

“I continue both personally and through my office to lend all possible support to formal and informal efforts and events dedicated to a timely convening of the 2012 conference,” Al-Nasser told Global Perspectives, IDN’s monthly magazine for international cooperation in a wide-ranging, exclusive question-and-answer interview. Finland offered to host the related international conference.

Al-Nasser who is from Qatar assumed the UNGA presidency on June 22, 2011 after a rich and varied diplomatic career.  He was Qatar’s permanent representative (ambassador) to the UN from 1988 to 2011. During that period, he was president of the UNGA high level committee on South-South cooperation, and chairman of the Group of 77 and China.

The UNGA President’s commitment to pursuing the nuclear-weapons-free zone conference falls within the four priority areas he has selected for emphasis during his term in office: mediation and the peaceful settlement of disputes, UN reform and revitalization, improving disaster preparedness and response, and sustainable development and global prosperity.

In other comments related to the Middle East he said that the international community has “a moral and practical duty” to support the Arab Awakening.

Excerpts of the interview follow.

The Arab Spring

Question: Do you expect the Arab Spring to profoundly impact the work of the UN in general and of the General Assembly in particular?

Al-Nasser: I would describe the events that are unfolding in the Arab world as the Arab Awakening rather than the Arab Spring as that is much better forward-looking description of what has happened and is ongoing. I believe that the Arab world is going through a very significant moment in the history of the Middle East, perhaps more significant than the decolonization era.

At this point, the international community has a moral and practical duty to support the call for equality, social justice and a better future coming out of the Arab world. But it is essential to point out that the democratic transformation should be accompanied by an economic and social transformation that is home-grown and that asserts national ownership. The UN has a central role in building consensus and galvanizing collective political will in favour of this transformational process. The UN can provide capacity development opportunities to these countries.

Palestine

Question: Are there any realistic prospects of Palestine becoming a full member of the UN in the near future – by 2014, for example, 40 years after PLO was given an observer status at the UN?

Al-Nasser. Credit:UN

Al-Nasser: I cannot see any reason why this shouldn’t be the case. The Palestinian people have the right to pursue or seek the membership of any international body including that of the General Assembly as sovereign peace-loving state. We have all witnessed the very supportive response that Member States and delegations gave to the speech by President Abbas on Palestine’s application for full UN membership.

Already many countries have recognized the state of Palestine. A Security Council Committee has submitted its report to the Council on this matter. The Palestinians have not announced their plans yet about the next course of action that they would prefer. If the Palestinians take their bid to the General Assembly seeking a permanent observer status as a state, then just a simple majority of those present and voting (out of the total UN membership of 193) is required. Let us see what the Palestinian leadership decides.

Conference on a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Middle East

Question: What role do you think the GA could possibly play in ensuring that the conference on a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East takes place this year as scheduled and that it brings forth positive results?

Al-Nasser: The General Assembly has identified nuclear disarmament as one of its top priorities since 1978, at its First Special Session on Disarmament. A good number of resolutions presented to the Assembly for endorsement include clear cut references to the importance of the goal to establish a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East in the context of promoting international peace and security.

UN Resolution on “The Risk of Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East”

This year, in addition to the adoption of its annual consensus resolution entitled “Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Region of the Middle East”, the General Assembly adopted another resolution, entitled “The Risk of Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East”, where specific reference has been made to the 2012 Conference on the establishment of a Zone Free from Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East and where the Conference has been strongly endorsed.

On various occasions, including through my statement before the First Committee of the General Assembly, I welcomed the appointment by the UN Secretary-General of a Facilitator from Finland, Mr. Jaakko Laajava.  I have offered the support of the General Assembly as a whole to facilitate his task in convening of a successful conference this year, in line with the consensus outcome document of the 2010 Review Conference of States Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

To demonstrate the importance of this issue on my agenda, I dispatched a senior representative from my office to participate, as an observer, at the Forum convened in November 2011 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Relevant Experiences of Other Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones to the establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East. I continue, both personally and through my office, to lend all possible support to formal and informal efforts and events dedicated to a timely convening of the 2012 Conference. These efforts will continue.

 Reform of the UN Security Council

Question: The GA has been labouring hard for years for reform of the UN Security Council as much-needed re-calibration in response to geopolitical transformation. Do you see any prospects of such a reform by 2015, 70 years after the founding of the UN?

Al-Nasser: I believe reform of the Security Council lies at the heart of revitalizing decision-making on international peace and security by the United Nations.  This is one of the four priority areas I have chosen for my Presidency. The first meeting of the 8th round of intergovernmental negotiations took place last November, chaired by Afghan Ambassador Zahir Tanin, in whose leadership I have full confidence.

I believe these negotiations are sending a clear message to the Member States about the need for achieving this long-overdue reform.  As President of the General Assembly, I stay committed to a solution that reflects the collective will of all Member States. There was a new dynamic during the negotiations so I intend to capitalize on that by hosting a retreat on Security Council Reform in the coming few weeks.

*This is an abridged version of the interview, which was first published by IDN-InDepthNews. Go to Original

**Credit: WMD world map – User:Fastfission | Wikimedia Commons

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