Praise for UAE stand on non-proliferation

The UAE is a "model student" a Japan Atomic Energy Commission official said., and could lead discussions in the region.

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TOKYO // The UAE can help lead the discussions to establish a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, said a senior official at the Japan Atomic Energy Commission.

Nobuyasu Abe, the organisation’s newly appointed commissioner, said the UAE could play a role on a non-proliferation aspect.

"It has signed and ratified the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) additional protocol and the US-UAE nuclear cooperation agreement which commits the UAE not to work on uranium enrichment or plutonium separation," he said. "So, in a way, the UAE is a model student. Some Americans call it the gold standard."

But establishing such a zone will take time.

“Peace has to be established first but peace has never been established, so we may never be able to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons if we keep focusing on peace,” he said, adding that basic peace between Israel and Arab countries had to come first.

Martin Malin, executive director of Managing the Atom at the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, said no one believed such a zone would be established any time soon. But discussions were important, he said, and should not be permitted to fail.

“Insofar as the UAE can contribute to constructive discussions, it should be encouraged to do so,” he said. “UAE efforts within the Gulf, within the Arab League, and within the broader region to help construct a practical agenda in which all parties have a stake in participating in WMD discussions should be accelerated.”

Hamad Alkaabi, ambassador to the IAEA, said the Emirates contributed to the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

"UAE non-proliferation credentials are well recognised internationally," he said. "This makes it an important player in regional and international non-proliferation and disarmament efforts."

Although Egypt led the idea of such a zone in the previous review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), no progress has been made.

“This has been a great disappointment to many,” said Ken Luongo, the president of Partnership for Global Security, a Washington research organisation. “But as the next NPT review conference approaches, the pressure for action may intensify.

"The UAE is a model of nuclear best practices in the Middle East," he said. "It has agreed to forgo uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing, it is being very diligent about developing nuclear regulations, and at The Hague Nuclear Security Summit, it signed on to a new initiative to fully implement IAEA nuclear security recommendations."

Other countries at the summit, including Jordan and Saudi Arabia, did not sign the initiative. “So the UAE is showing that it is a responsible nuclear leader in the region,” Mr Luongo said..