Research paper

A New Approach

Image source/description: Iranians hold a celebration in Tehran after negotiators took a significant step toward the framework for an agreement aimed at keeping Iran’s nuclear program peaceful.
The Pursuit of a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East


  • At the 1995 Review Conference (RevCon), states parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) decided to extend the time frame of the treaty indefinitely. This decision was made possible in part because Arab states were given assurances, through a resolution sponsored by the three depositary states of the NPT (Russia, the UK and the US), that those party to the NPT would pursue the goal of establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East.
  • Over 20 years later that goal remains a distant possibility, despite several attempts by the signatories of the NPT to further the process. The most notable effort was the decision to hold a conference on the WMD-free zone (WMDFZ) in 2012, which has been postponed indefinitely.
  • There are clear differences in the desired outcomes of the states involved in the process, which view the WMDFZ proposal as a means to an end. However, the differing ends they seek are disparate enough to warrant considering a new approach.
  • Egypt wants to close the gap in WMD capabilities between the states in the Middle East, and has specifically highlighted Israel’s nuclear programme. At the same time, Israel sees the negotiations as an opportunity to engage directly with the Arab states and pave the way for the normalization of ties between them.
  • To progress beyond the current stalemate the states involved should create an additional forum, away from the NPT review process, to discuss the aim of establishing a WMDFZ and restore the original link between a WMDFZ and the Middle East peace process.