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Judit Koromi

On WMDs. JCPOA, CSBM and Other Issues

SummaryThe European Union and its member states have continuously expressed support for the establishment of a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East. The only sustainable way to achieve this goal is through the establishment for a meaningful conference based on arrangements through dialogue and building confidence among all stakeholders. The EU states the need for continued full and effective implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. In historical experience, any lasting solution must be based on arrangements freely arrived at between the States of the region. The EU has all the diplomatic skills and the will to actively promote the establishment of a WMD free zone in the Middle East. 

A paper by:  Judit Koromi

In 1995, the European Union and its Member States, together with all countries from the Middle East and the North African region, committed in the Barcelona Declaration to the pursuit of “a mutually and effectively verifiable Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems”. Since then the EU and its Member States have been staunch supporters of a process aimed at establishing the WMD-free zone in the Middle East and continue to strongly support the outcome on the Middle East of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

The EU has continuously expressed its readiness to assist in the process leading to the establishment of a zone in the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. In order to help to produce a conducive atmosphere and move the process forward, the European Union organised several events.

Already in 2008, the EU held a seminar in Paris on “Middle East Security, WMD Non-proliferation and Disarmament”, with the participation of most countries of the Barcelona process and some countries from the Gulf, helping building confidence in working further towards that objective and in identifying some suggestions for confidence-building measures.

In May 2010, at the NPT Review Conference, the EU Member States, who have all supported the outcome document of the 2010 Review Conference, offered that the EU would organise a follow-on seminar to the one held in Paris in 2008. Following the decision of the EU Council in December 2010, the EU Seminar in support of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East was held in Brussels in July 2011. This was followed by another seminar in 2012 in support of the Conference which was scheduled to take place in Helsinki in 2012.

We supported the preparations for a successful Conference to begin negotiations on the establishment of the WMD-free zone in the Middle East and the efforts of the Finnish Facilitator and his team. We were encouraged by the informal meetings held in Glion and Geneva and we persistently called on all States in the region to proactively engage with the Facilitator and the co-conveners, with the aim of enabling the Conference to be convened as soon as possible, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at between the States of the region. We have repeatedly expressed regret because of the postponement of the Conference.

Nevertheless, in June 2014, the EU convened a capacity-building workshop in Brussels for Middle Eastern diplomats in support of the postponed Helsinki conference. During that workshop participants learned from the personal experience of negotiators in the fields of international security, arms control, disarmament and confidence-building and security building measures.

The failure to agree on a final outcome document at the 2015 Review Conference of the NPT was not unusual in the history of the Treaty. Only half of the previous eight review conferences have been able to agree on such a consensus final declaration. The establishment of the WMD free zone in the Middle East, however, remains an important goal and the EU and its Member States maintain their full support for it. Yet, the failure to convene the Conference and the absence of an established process is a concern for the EU which is of the view that the WMD-free zone in the Middle East would contribute to peace, security and prosperity in the region, a region which is adjacent to Europe, a region with which we share a long history and a number of important relationships.

The question how to achieve this goal, or what are the practical steps that would lead to the creation of the WMD-free zone, and what can we do to help others in their endeavours to actually achieving a Middle East without weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery remain often discussed. The EU is ready to assist and facilitate such discussions.

We maintain the view that dialogue and building confidence among all stakeholders is the only sustainable way to agree on arrangements for a meaningful conference, to be attended by all States of the Middle East on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by them as decided by the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Ratifications by the remaining States of the region of the NPT, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) would be important confidence- and security-building measures, and could constitute tangible steps in the direction of the Middle East WMD-free Zone.

Let me recall that the E3/EU+3 took part in the diplomatic efforts of the E3/EU+3 countries and Iran to find a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. Those efforts culminated, on 14 July 2015, in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. As coordinator of the joint commission, in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Plan of Action, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will continue to play a key role in ensuring that Iran’s commitments are thoroughly implemented and that, through this process, confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme can be built.

Most recently, on 14 November, the Council of Foreign Ministers adopted conclusions on Iran in which they expresses their will to develop further EU’s relations with Iran, in a manner fully consistent with the JCPOA.

In this document the European Union reiterates the need for continued full and effective implementation of the JCPOA throughout the lifetime of the agreement and that the EU is committed to support the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA including by the lifting of nuclear related economic and financial sanctions and engaging with the private sector and economic operators, especially banks, to promote growth in trade and investment.

The Ministers also said that the upholding of commitments by all sides is a necessary condition to continue rebuilding trust and allow for continued, steady and gradual improvement in relations between the European Union, its Member States and Iran.

This takes me to the meaning and the role of diplomacy. The JCPOA was the culmination of many years of diplomatic effort aimed at reaching a peaceful long term solution which gives all sides the assurances they need. It is, however, difficult to conduct negotiations without normal diplomatic relations and the way to normality requires not only grand visions or rhetorical declarations but concrete measures through which confidence and trust can be built.

Since I was asked to address this audience of would-be colleagues, let me say a few words about diplomacy in general.

First of all, diplomacy is much more than public diplomacy. It might not be a very fashionable thing to say at the time when Foreign Ministers are tweeting about their daily activities, Embassies are required to have Facebook accounts, and press conferences are often considered the single most important moments of foreign visits. And yet, I would insist that there is a major difference between highlighting an issue and addressing an issue, between making statements on a problem, and resolving a problem. Making a public statement can be a useful part of a negotiating strategy but cannot replace it. If one really wants to influence the situation on the ground, even the most convincing statements cannot substitute for effective negotiations.

The point about diplomacy being more than public diplomacy also has two other implications. The first of them is that in most negotiations there is a place for confidentiality, for discreet contacts and discussions. There are many experiments and stories which demonstrate that the behaviour of negotiating parties and the outcome of negotiations are different under the public scrutiny and when the talks are held under the conditions of confidentiality and only the final results are presented publicly. In public, it is much more difficult to look for mutually acceptable compromises, to launch trial balloons, to try out creative formulas.

The second important implication of going beyond public diplomacy is that in negotiations involving arms control, non-proliferation, or CSBMs it is necessary for the diplomatic and legal negotiators to involve the military (Ministries of Defence or General Staffs), and sometimes other security agencies. Does it make things easier? Not at all! And yet, they are important, sometimes indispensable. If international arms control or CSBM agreements are to be implemented, the agencies which will be instrumental for their implementation on the national level have to be familiar and comfortable with them from the beginning. Involvement of military advisers in arms control negotiations is a wise and well-tested practice.

Another experience I would like to share is what to do when negotiations are in a stalemate, hit a wall, various options have been explored and it seems there is no room for further progress. In such cases, one of possible tricks in negotiations is changing their scope, even without changing the formal mandate. It could in fact go in both directions. The first is to limit the scope of negotiations: if we cannot agree on everything we are discussing, let's at least agree on something; if we cannot agree on a long-term solution, let's at least negotiate an interim one – to maintain the momentum, to gain time, to build trust and implementation practice. But, sometimes the opposite works: broadening the scope of negotiations. If we cannot strike an acceptable balance on issues which are currently on the table, let's try adding some more issues onto the table, especially issues which might be of different value to the negotiating sides. Their inclusion might in fact enable achieving a better, more fine-tuned balance of interests, resulting in a comprehensive agreement.

Last, let me stress the underlying need for diplomatic empathy. While defending your country's interests and positions, you should also be aware that your partner, interlocutor, sometimes adversary, also has interests to secure and positions to defend. You can in fact be more effective in your work, in defending your country's interest, in seeking a good solution if you understand the other side better. Try to look at an issue with his or her eyes, understand his or her underlying concerns, try going beyond the formal position which is being articulated. For this it is often good to meet not only at the negotiating table, but also at a lunch or dinner table.

In the end let me return to the issue of the WMD-free zone in the Middle East. As the negotiations on all the relevant treaties (NPT, CWC, BWC) or on the Iranian nuclear programme have shown, diplomatic negotiations can take a long time. They require patience and pragmatism all the more because success is never guaranteed and is usually subject to interpretation. Having said that I believe the EU has all these diplomatic skills, the tools and, above all, the will to actively promote the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. We continue to support the aim of convening a conference in this regard as soon as possible and maintaining the historical experience that any long lasting solution has to be based on arrangements freely arrived at between the States of the region.



* Paper presented at the Annual Nuclear Forum Meeting held by the Arab Institute for Security Studies (2016). 





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