Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukri on Monday called on Middle East countries to hold a special conference to create a region free of nuclear weapons.
The minister is currently attending the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference at United Nations headquarters in New York, where he also met with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday to discuss non-proliferation and terrorism in the region, according to a foreign ministry statement.
All countries in the Middle East, excluding Israel, are parties to the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, whose 191 signatories have agreed to nuclear disarmament for countries with nuclear weapons, non-proliferation in those that don't have them, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy everywhere.
Israel, who allegedly possesses the region's sole nuclear arsenal, has traditionally been absent from the conference held every five years for treaty signatories. However, it is attending this year as an observer, reportedly anxious about the outcome of ongoing talks between Iran and the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China over Tehran's nuclear activities.
Iran, who is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has repeatedly claimed that its nuclear activities were peaceful, but the International Atomic Energy Agency has said that it could not confirm that they were entirely peaceful.
Egypt first put forth the idea for a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East in 1990.
Such a zone in the Middle East would extend from Libya in the West, to Iran in the East, and from Syria in the north to Yemen in the South, and its parties would commit to not possess, acquire, test, manufacture or use "any nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as their delivery systems", according to a 1995 resolution.
Egypt, a signatory to both the Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, plans to build a nuclear power plant in Dabaa, close to the western coastal city of Marsa Matrouh. Russia has signed a memorandum of agreement to help Egypt build the plant.
The US has announced that it is not opposed to any possible Egyptian-Russian deal as long as it fully meets all obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.