New York, NY, United States (4E) – A conference aimed at ridding the Middle East from biological, chemical and nuclear weapons has been postponed to next year, according to United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon and officials in Finland, host of the event.
Ban and Finnish special envoy Jaakko Laajava said Saturday the region’s states could not attend the December conference being organized by the U.S., U.K. and Russia because they were preoccupied on dealing with the violence that engulfed the region, referring to the Syria civil war and conflict between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza Strip.
However, the two officials said they will work to convene the Middle East states for the conference early next year. Israel declined to attend the conference to avoid diplomatic attacks of its airstrikes on Gaza against Palestinian militants firing mortars, rockets and missiles into Israel. A ceasefire was agreed between the two sides on Wednesday.
The U.S. State Department also said there was disagreement among Middle East countries over approaches towards regional security and arms control arrangements. Ban appealed to Middle East countries to set aside their differences so that weapons of mass destruction could be eliminated in the region.
The conference is supposed to tackle the issue on nuclear weapons in Israel and Iran, which both deny they possess.
The conference was proposed during the review the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Egypt is seeking the declaration of the Middle East as free from weapons of mass destruction.