18 Nov 2019 10:45

Nuclear-free Middle East meets Russia's national interests - envoy Ulyanov

MOSCOW. Nov 18 (Interfax) - The creation of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East will bolster the nuclear non-proliferation regime, which meets Russia's national interests, Russian Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said in an interview published by the newspaper Kommersant on Monday.

"The creation of this zone would make a substantial contribution to the strengthening of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, which meets Russia's national interests. If the process is set in motion, acquires positive dynamics and, especially, yields a practical result, such as a draft agreement ready for signing, that would be an important achievement," Ulyanov said ahead of the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction due to open in New York on November 18 under the UN aegis.

"If tensions surrounding the issue of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East are defused, it will be much easier to implement the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]," he said.

"Our fair and transparent stance on the establishment of such a zone strengthens Russia's reputation in the Middle East," Ulyanov said.

"At the same time, we do not quarrel with Israel. We have no fierce debates on the matter with the Israelis. They understand that we acting in this manner because we serve as a guarantor of the 1995 deal and care about nuclear non-proliferation," Ulyanov said.

"By joining this process, Israel could actually control it and prevent steps, which might be undesirable to it, from being taken," he said.

"In the absence of the Israelis at the conference, others will decide what should be included in the agreement [on building a WMD-free zone in the Middle East] and how. I doubt that would meet the interests of Israel. Participation in this conference would give Israeli colleagues a chance to raise other security issues. It is always better to have dialogue than not to have one," Ulyanov said.

"Perhaps, the Israelis will change their stance a year or two from now. As I understand, the process of elaborating the zone agreement will be quite lengthy. The General Assembly has decided to hold annual sessions. The first one will take place now. The same will be happening every year until the relevant agreement is ready. It may take more than one year," Ulyanov said.