Military missiles
Military missiles
7 May 2013

Researchers from The University of Queensland are helping to establish the Middle East as a zone free from nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Associate Professor Marianne Hanson and doctoral researcher Nicholas Taylor from UQ’s School of Political Science and International Studies helped facilitate a gathering of Middle Eastern representatives for the Athens Dialogue on establishing in the Middle East a Zone Free of Mass Destruction and their means of Delivery.

The two-and-a-half day dialogue brought together Middle Eastern civil society leaders, experts and former diplomats, as well as a small number of representatives from global civil society and states outside the region, including Australia.

The event fostered open discussion about weapons of mass destruction and developed a report which made a number of recommendations including new and constructive thinking about the future security of the Middle East.

Dr Hanson said the use and proliferation of such weapons in the Middle East was an international concern.

“The rapid international escalation of what’s taking place inside Syria is a direct result of that country’s extensive and advanced chemical and biological weapons capability,” Dr Hanson said.

“It was especially significant to have representatives from both Iran and Israel attend the discussion as they have previously been reluctant to enter into negotiations about a WMD free zone.”

Mr Taylor said the establishment of a WMD-free zone had been a long-standing policy aim, based on the successful negotiation of nuclear-weapon-free zones covering almost the entire Southern Hemisphere.

“The proposal was first put forward in 1974 by the governments of Iran and Egypt and has had universal in-principle endorsement by all states of the region – including Israel – since 1980,” he said.

“Dialogue is a useful method to explore the limits and possibilities of difference both between and within groups.”

The Athens Dialogue was jointly organised by La Trobe University’s Centre for Dialogue and the European Public Law Organization, in association with the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and The University of Queensland.

The negotiations were initially scheduled for the Helsinki Conference in Finland, last December, however, following the postponement, the conference co-conveners reaffirmed their support of such dialogue at a state-level.

The full report and a summary of recommendations was published in multiple languages and resulted in a published journal article.

Media: UQ Associate Professor Marianne Hanson, Nicholas A.J. Taylor, Gillian Ievers, UQ Marketing and Communications Officer SBS Faculty -, 07 33653308 or 33657436.