Gulf Research Center
held the workshop entitled:
Voices from the Region: The Gulf as a WMD Free Zone
11-12 December, 2004.
Gulf Research Center, Dubai - UAE.
During the past few months a noticeable diplomatic and international media campaign has intensified vis-à-vis the possibility, present and future, of a WMD and in particular nuclear development in the Gulf region. The threat that certain countries in the region may cease their reliance on conventional weapons and turn instead to developing WMDs poses a grave security concern. Any such development will have immense historic implications for the security and stability of the Gulf region, which remains a vital element for the stability and prosperity of the world as the main source of international oil exports
It is now imperative that the people of the region as well as their governments discuss the implications of this possible development. If any one of the Gulf States manages to acquire nuclear capabilities or nuclear weapons, the people of the region would be the primary victims. Any assessment of the issues at stake must bear in mind that the type of primitive nuclear capabilities - should any of the regional states proceed with such a development program - would not in any way constitute a real deterrence against the world’s great powers or even the region"s nuclear powers. These nations posses huge and well-developed nuclear capabilities able to deal efficiently with any new threat emanating from a nascent nuclear power with limited technological capabilities. Therefore the real and immediate outcome of any WMD development in the Gulf from a security, political, and environmental perspective would be to the detriment of the security of the Gulf States and the safety and security of the people of the region.
The GRC, as a regional think tank that is deeply concerned with the wider geopolitical and strategic dimensions of the affairs of the Gulf which includes the six member states of the GCC Council, in addition to Iraq, Iran and Yemen, and as part of the Center’s commitment to serve and enhance the security, stability and prosperity of the people and countries of the region, strongly believes that it is now urgent to consider pre-emptive measures against the possibility that the Gulf region involve itself in a WMD arms-race thereby entering a dangerous phase in its history.
Given the recent developments across the region, the GRC, out of its concern and as part of its stated mission to promote regional stability and support peaceful co-existence across the Gulf, has taken the initiative in its capacity as an independent think-tank to put the issue on the table for regional debate. The main objective of this GRC initiative is to use the lessons and examples from nations that faced similar crises in the past and managed to find viable solutions through a rational approach that protected the core interests of the people of their regions. The outcome of past efforts has been the signing of a number of historic agreements to disarm and destroy the nuclear capabilities of certain countries. Notable instances include the voluntary decision by the government of South Africa in 1990 to dismantle their nuclear arsenal, or the historic agreements to declare regional-geographical blocs as WMD-free zones, as was the case with the declaration and commitment of Latin American and Caribbean countries in 1967, the agreement signed by the countries of the South Pacific in 1985, the agreement ratified by African countries in 1996 and the agreement ratified by Central Asian countries in 2002.
The outstanding success achieved by the four regions which were all declared as nuclear- and WMD-free zones, covering more than 110 countries is an encouraging incentive for the Gulf region.
Conducting a constructive dialogue and debate on this particular issue is one of the top priorities of GRC. The current workshop represents the primary core for future activities and events that the GRC plans to hold in a bid to sustain the continuation of serious debate on the need to build a comprehensive and efficient regional security system as well as consolidate regional stability, cooperation and peaceful coexistence among the countries in the region. The project for the declaration of the Gulf region as WMD-free zone is, in fact, one of the most vital requirements for the establishment of a regional security system.
It is worth pointing out in this context that the GRC strongly believes that the entire Middle East region ought to be declared a WMD-free zone. The GRC regards the Gulf project as a vital starting-point for a future security architecture that would, if successful, include the whole Middle East region. The GRC believes that the success of this project will contribute towards reinforcing a new framework of security principles and- in the long-term- intensify regional and international pressures on any remaining Middle East countries that possess WMD capabilities towards a disarmament agreement. It is hoped that the project will give rise to a new legal and political reality that will undermine the much-repeated political and moral justifications and arguments deployed by Israel to defend their nuclear arsenal.
The GRC"s optimism in this endeavor is based on the past success of other nations and regions in creating WMD free zones. Beginning with the acceptance of one nation to this principle, many countries were able to coerce neighboring countries in specific regions to accept disarmament either through caving in to regional and international pressure, as was the case with South Africa’s decision to destroy its nuclear arsenal and join the declaration of Africa as a nuclear-free zone, or by taking the historic decision to completely abandon advanced programs for the development of WMDs, as was the case with Brazil and Argentina, both of which joined the declaration of Latin American states of the region as WMD-free zone.
The GRC hopes the debates at this workshop will focus on these sensitive issues on two levels; Firstly, a regional and open dialogue among the nine states of the Gulf region expressing their concerns and reservations on the subject of regional security. Secondly, a regional-international discussion, involving international organizations and a number of the world’s great powers whose interests have become intertwined within the security structure of the Gulf region. The Gulf should look towards the US, the EU member states and the Russian Federation amongst other nations for real dialogue on the objective of declaring the region a WMD free zone.
Opening Remarks by GRC Chairman Abdulaziz O. Sager
It is my pleasure to welcome you at the Gulf Research Center here today, to discuss an issue of paramount importance.
The GRC like most other think tanks around the globe has a clear vision and a well defined mission.
It is an unfortunate fact that in the Gulf region and in the greater Middle East we are facing major problems and formidable challenges. We are living in a permanent and constant crisis, where a lot of blood, money, and effort are wasted needlessly and inhumanly.
This region is so unique and so vital to the entire world, irrespective of its geographical separation or cultural diversity. It is simply the main reservoir of the energy supply to the machinery of modern civilization.
Accordingly, we strongly believe that interests in the stability of this region must be a shared responsibility between the inhabitants of the region and the rest of the world.
The GRC vision is simple, logical and legitimate. It is focused, and revolves on promoting one simple objective, which is: the basic right of the people of the Gulf region is to live in a stable, peaceful, and secure environment, and we rightly believe that everyone in this region and even beyond, shares our desires and aspirations.
We said that the Gulf is an identifiable region or a sub – region consisting of nine countries. We strongly believe in the principle of inclusion and not exclusion, based on the fact that the stability and prosperity of this region could not be achieved without the full and active participation of all the nine states of the geo – political or geo – strategic Gulf.
A major role of this Center’s activities is directed towards promoting the basic components of a durable, sustainable, just and equal security system that could lead to a stable and secure region. This specific theme of promoting regional security measures in the Gulf region was the focus of the GRC workshop jointly held last November with the Bertelsmann Foundation of Germany.
Today, we are taking another step towards achieving this objective. We will attempt to put on the table a new idea to underpin and strengthen the regional security concept. We cannot achieve security or be part of an agreed regional security regime without first accepting and endorsing the basic principle of prohibiting the development, production, stockpiling, and the use of Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) in the region.
The shortest and most effective approach to achieving this noble objective is to utilize other nations’ and regions’ experiences in this field , from Latin America, Africa, South Pacific, Central Asia and other regions, in the hope of promoting the project of declaring the Gulf region as a WMD free zone. Today we have five well established Nuclear Free Zones around the Globe, and more than 110 states, collectively and/or individually that accepted the legally binding obligation to renounce the Nuclear or WMD option and abandon all developments of such weapons.
Our task today and tomorrow is to discuss and encourage the development of the Gulf as a WMD free zone. In that sense we aspire to be the voice of the voiceless, irrespective of their nationality or the attitude of their own government or political leadership.
We are fully aware that the entire Middle East region needs to be declared as a WMD free zone, but equally we believe that our success in establishing the Gulf as a WMD free zone region is a crucial first step. We hope that it will have a huge impact on the entire Middle East, generating the necessary pressure and positive political environment in which the expansion of this concept to include the entire Middle East region could be accelerated.
Thank you again for being here and we hope that this workshop leads to practical and feasible recommendations and solutions.