x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE is committed to keeping Middle East free of nuclear weapons

NEW YORK // The UAE has renewed its commitment to keeping the Middle East free of nuclear weapons and called on Iran to comply with the demands of the UN atomic watchdog to prove its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.

“The UAE expresses continuing concern at the challenges facing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, especially the inability of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] to fully verify the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme,” the UAE’s new ambassador to the United Nations, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, said in her first address to the UN.

She called on Iran to “resolve all outstanding issues with the IAEA in order to restore confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme and exclude any possible military objectives”, she added.

Iranian negotiators will be meeting with counterparts from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, and with IAEA officials in separate meetings, later this month in Geneva. The talks will be the first negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme since newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani, who has promised increased cooperation, took office in August.

Iran claims that its programme is strictly for peaceful energy purposes, but it has refused to curb sensitive nuclear work and has denied IAEA access to sites and officials. Eleven meetings since January 2012 have failed to end the deadlock with the IAEA over these issues.

Speaking on Thursday before the UN General Assembly’s First Committee, which considers disarmament and international security issues, Ms Nusseibeh urged all countries in the Middle East to work together in order to achieve a nuclear weapons-free zone.

The ambassador expressed the UAE’s dismay at the delay in convening the 2012 Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and called upon organisers to convene the conference as soon as possible “in order to maintain the credibility of the NPT”.

Israel is the only nuclear-armed country in the Middle East and the only one not to have signed the NPT, and Ms Nusseibeh urged Israel to join the treaty.

The UAE holds a “clear position” on the issues of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, she said, based on the country’s full accession and implementation of all relevant international conventions, including the NPT, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, as well as the Arms Trade Treaty that it recently signed.

The UAE is concerned about the potential undermining of international peace and security by the lack of the international community’s progress in ensuring nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, Ms Nusseibeh said.

The nuclear test conducted by North Korea this year is a particularly troubling threat to peace and security, she added, renewing the UAE’s appeal to the international community to begin the process under the Conference on Disarmament for establishing the Fissible Material Cut-off Treaty.

Given what she called the increasing threat of nuclear terrorism, the ambassador underlined the UAE’s support for international efforts to strengthen nuclear security and said Abu Dhabi will next month host the IAEA International Conference on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources.