António Guterres (UN Secretary-General) at the Second Session of the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction
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Remarks by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction

"I wish to start by extending my warm congratulations to Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi for his election as the President of the second session of the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction.  

It is a pleasure to join you today in continuing this important process. 

Since 1967, five nuclear-weapon-free zones have been established around the world.  

They include 60 percent of the United Nations Member States and cover almost all of the Southern Hemisphere.  

Expanding such zones to more regions will strengthen global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation norms and contribute to building a safer world.  

That is particularly the case in the Middle East, where concerns over nuclear programmes persist, and where conflicts and civil wars are causing widespread civilian casualties and suffering, undermining stability and disrupting social and economic development.  

I reiterate my call upon all parties to exercise restraint and avoid escalation.  

The return to dialogue on the full and effective implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, is an important step.  

All parties must ensure this valuable instrument remains effective.  

The perpetrators of chemical attacks must be identified and held accountable.  

States must join forces and seek every opportunity to ease tensions, resolve conflicts and build lasting peace and security.  

This Conference represents one such initiative and could bring tangible benefits to the Middle East region and beyond. 

Achieving a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction will eliminate the possibilities of nuclear conflicts in the region and contribute to realizing a world free of nuclear weapons.   

It will strengthen the international bans on chemical and biological weapons. 

It will build trust, reduce tensions and prevent conflicts and human suffering. 

It will deescalate regional arms races and free much needed resources to tackle major challenges, including COVID-19, climate change,  and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.   

Finally, it will contribute to achieving just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.  

I congratulate all participating States for their determination and commitment to an open and inclusive approach, as demonstrated by the Political Declaration reached at the first session of the Conference, under the Presidency of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  

I also commend the Presidency of the second session, the State of Kuwait, for actively engaging participants during the intersessional period to learn from the other nuclear-weapon-free zones and continue moving the process forward.  

I call on all invited States to join this Conference process and to contribute to this significant regional endeavour. 

Your strong political will, together with the international community's support, can transform the vision of a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction into a reality.  

I wish you a successful Conference. Through my High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, I remain at your disposal to assist in this important effort. 

Thank you."