Geneva - Egypt walked out of a round of global nuclear talks
in protest on Monday, saying other nations are not acting quickly enough to
establish the Middle East as a zone free of nuclear weapons.
A statement from Egypt's foreign ministry said the nation
ended its participation in two weeks of Geneva talks out of frustration that
the zone has yet to be created. The talks run through this week.
"We can't wait forever for the implementation of this
decision," said the ministry's statement on Monday night, explaining that
Egypt's walkout was meant to send a message to the world that it can no longer
accept what it considers to be a lack of seriousness on the issue.
But establishing the Middle East as a zone free of nuclear
weapons has long been an elusive goal.
The Geneva talks, which have included no negotiations on
such a zone, are meant to prepare for the next major review of the 1970 Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty in 2015. Such reviews are held once every five years.
The NPT, which has been signed by 190 nations, is the
world's single most important pact on nuclear arms, credited with preventing
their spread to dozens of nations since it was adopted.
Iran is a member, but four nations that are known or
believed to possess nuclear weapons — Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea —
are not. Of the non-members, Israel, India and Pakistan never signed the
treaty, but North Korea ratified it in 1985 then withdrew in 2003 after US
allegations it had started illegally enriching uranium.
A series of the UN Security Council resolutions has demanded
that Iran curb its uranium enrichment. The West fears Iran may be aiming to
develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran has denied the charges, saying its program
is geared toward generating and producing radioisotopes to treat cancer
At the 1995 review, nations adopted the goal of a
nuclear-free Middle East, in a concession by the US and others to the Arabs,
who wanted Israel to join the treaty and to give up its unacknowledged arsenal
of nuclear weapons. In exchange, the Arabs backed the treaty's permanent
But after 15 years of inaction on a nuclear-free zone, Egypt
proposed that the 2010 conference endorse launching negotiations to establish
one. With no talks started, Egypt said Monday that some other members of the
treaty — and non-members — are "obstructing" the goal. Though it did
not specify, the reference to non-members was seen as implying Israel.
Ahead of the Geneva talks to prevent the spread of nuclear
arms, the UN Security Council's five major powers — Britain, China, France,
Russia and the United States — had again called for progress in establishing a
nuclear-free Middle East.
Egypt's Assistant Foreign Minister Hisham Badr told the
Geneva conference this month that "the history of this issue ... has been
one of unfulfilled commitment after the other.
Egypt and many Arab countries have joined the NPT with the
understanding that this would lead to a Middle East completely free of nuclear
weapons. However, more than 30 years later, one country in the Middle East —
namely Israel — remains outside the NPT."