UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that the failure to hold a conference on establishing a nuclear-weapons-free-zone in the Middle East this year could jeopardise the success of next year's review of the landmark 1970 agreement aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear arms.
Ban urged all parties to finalise arrangements for a Mideast conference to be held as soon as possible this year, in a report to the UN General Assembly circulated on Thursday.
At the 2010 conference to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the 189 member nations that are party to the NPT called for convening a meeting in 2012 "on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction."
It was scheduled to take place in Finland in late 2012, but the United States announced it would be delayed, apparently to save Israel, which is widely believed to possess a nuclear arsenal, though it has never confirmed having nuclear weapons.
The final preparatory conference for the 2015 review of the NPT ended in May without agreement on final recommendations, and one of the two key issues was the failure to hold a conference on a Mideast weapons-free zone.
One recommendation called for convening the conference this year. Iran, Israel and Arab states have taken part in several informal meetings, most recently in Geneva on June 24-25, attended by veteran Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava, who is serving as facilitator of the proposed Mideast conference to discuss the arrangements and outcomes of a conference.
"Despite these extended consultations, there continue to be differences among the parties on several important aspects of the conference, including on its agenda, and hence agreement on the modalities for the conference has not yet been reached," the secretary-general said.
Ban said he "remains concerned" that a failure to convene the Mideast weapons-free-zone conference before the 2015 NPT review conference "may frustrate the ability of states to conduct a successful review of the operation of the (NPT) treaty and could undermine the treaty process and related non-proliferation and disarmament objectives."
He expressed hope that countries in the region will take advantage of the opportunity to discuss security issues following the war between Israel and Hamas, and through a conference "initiate a process leading to the complete elimination of all weapons of mass destruction in the region."