‘WMD free zone:’ Russia & UAE agree to join forces on Middle East non-proliferation

‘WMD free zone:’ Russia & UAE agree to join forces on Middle East non-proliferation
Moscow and Abu Dhabi have said they would take “active” efforts to turn Middle East into a zone free from any weapons of mass destruction. The ambitious goal was stated in a newly signed strategic partnership declaration.

“Turning Middle East into a zone free from weapons of mass destruction” was listed as one of the major aims in a declaration on strategic partnership between Russia and the United Arab Emirates signed on June 1. The goal is seen as part of a wider effort aimed at enhancing international security.

“The [two] sides will actively contribute to the process of disarmament at an international and regional levels,” the document says, according to Russian media. It further states that the efforts of the two nations would be particularly aimed at “strengthening the WMD non-proliferation regimes” as well as at control over the development of related technologies.

The joint declaration comes as Russia and Europe are actively trying to keep the 2015 Iran deal afloat, following the unilateral withdrawal from the agreement by the US. Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA), the deal was negotiated in the summer of 2015 and was aimed at resolving concerns around the Iranian nuclear program.

US President Donald Trump repeatedly called the agreement the “worst deal ever negotiated,” and demonstrated apparent aspiration to “dismantle” it on many occasions. He eventually announced his decision to pull the US out of the agreement in early May.

The move was condemned by all other signatory parties, including Washington’s European allies. Russia and China had repeatedly warned the US against unilaterally revising the agreement, which they argued would hurt global security.

Russia, meanwhile, continues to cooperate with the Islamic Republic. In mid-May, the Russia-led five-nation Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has signed a 3-year provisional agreement with Iran to welcome the Islamic Republic into the bloc’s free-trade zone.

Moscow and Abu Dhabi are not the only ones concerned about potential proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. In March, Qatar also called for making the region a WMD-free zone, adding that any state possessing WMDs seriously undermines regional security and could provoke an arms race that would affect global stability.

Apart from Iran’s nuclear program, the troubled region also faces a number of other WMD-related issues. In the war-ravaged Syria, extremists could have gained control over some of the government’s chemical weapons stockpiles. The militants also created their own chemical laboratories, according to the Russian and Syrian military.

Israel, which still refuses to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is widely assumed to already possess nuclear weapons. Tel Aviv has neither officially denied nor confirmed the rumors. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia threatened in early May to build its own nuclear bomb if its regional enemy Iran ramps up development of its weapons program.

World needs to unite efforts in fighting against terrorism without ‘double standards’

Apart from non-proliferation, the joint declaration also calls for the establishment of a broad coalition to combat extremism and terrorism. Such structure should be based on mutual respect to every nation’s sovereignty while any double standards should be cast aside, the document says.

“The sides are convinced that unprecedented expansion of international terrorism and extremism that threatens security and sovereignty of states requires a decisive … collective [response] from the international community,” the declaration says, adding that fighting against terrorism leaves no room to double standards or any “selectivity.”

Russia and the UAE also called for the strengthening of the role of the UN and particularly that of the UN Security Council in the field of resolving international and regional issues as well as in the fight against extremism.

The declaration was signed following the talks between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE's Armed Forces. Al-Nahyan arrived in Moscow for an official visit on Thursday.

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