On October 16, 2019 the International Institute for Peace organized a background talk with Ambassador Dr. Mahmoud Karem from Egypt. The discussion focused on the current developments with regard to the establishment of Middle East weapons of mass destruction-free zone (MEWMDFZ). Ambassador Karem, the rapporteur of the Arab Summit Committee in 2017 on the same issue, will travel to New York in November to attend the conference on MEWMDFZ.
The upcoming conference in November is a new initiative pioneered by Egypt and supported by other Arab states. It brings the issue of the WMD-free Middle East outside of the NPT process, thereby creating a new venue for discussions for all parties that have a stake in the establishment of the zone. The conference is meant to foster confidence building among regional actors and create multilateral dialogue. Israel, a non-NPT signatory, was also invited to attend the conference, although so far it has announced that it will not participate.
The Resolution on the establishment of the Middle East WMD-free Zone was adopted in 1995 at the NPT Review Conference that also saw the Treaty being extended indefinitely. The indefinite extension of the NPT was possible due to the adoption of the Middle East Resolution that was requested by the Arab states. Therefore, lack of progress on this issue until today has been very disappointing to many. In addition, since disagreements over the MEWMDFZ became one of the main stumbling blocks during the 2015 NPT Review Conference, some sort of progress in this area will be essential for adoption of the final document at the next NPT RevCon scheduled for 2020. Out of three sponsors of the Middle East Resolution, only Russia has confirmed its support to the upcoming conference in November, while the United States has denied its participation.