Nuclear Weapon Free Zones and the Nuclear Powers

Roberta Mulas


The proposal to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles in the Middle East poses a variety of challenges. One is the attitude nuclear weapon states are likely to adopt towards the prospective zone. In the past these states played a crucial role in ensuring the success of nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZs) as they can provide the parties to those treaties with negative security assurances, i.e. legal guarantees against nuclear attacks.

An analysis of their behavior vis-à-vis existing NWFZs will help to identify a pattern of issues that have proved problematic in the past. The nuclear powers wanted to retain certain prerogatives in the NWFZs: freedom of the seas, transit rights, testing, bases, and security arrangements.

This POLICY BRIEF will show how these issues might apply to the Middle Eastern case. It aims at underscoring the importance and quandary of nuclear powers in the creation of a WMD/DVs Free Zone in the Middle East. Discussions on this topic are scheduled for 2012, as agreed by the last Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Thus, clarifying concepts and presenting ideas which address this issue is a useful exercise.


This project receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.