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Peace Boat promotes Middle East NWFZ

May 7, 2011

A few weeks ago, members of IPPNW’s Mediterranean Commission, including Andi Nidecker of Switzerland, Maria Sotiropolou of Greece, and Hillel Schenker of Israel, joined peace activists from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, India, Japan, and the US aboard the Peace Boat—an oceanliner that makes two or three worldwide cruises each year under the auspices of a Japanese NGO of the same name.

The March cruise, called “Horizon 2012,” was in part a strategy meeting on ways civil society groups can support progress toward a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.”

Peace Boat

Participants in Peace Boat's "Horizon 2012" cruise included Andi Nidecker and Maria Sotiropoulo (2nd and 3rd from left) and Hillel Schenker (2nd from right)

A Middle East NWFZ was a high priority recommendation of the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which called for an international conference on an agreement to create such a zone in 2012. No specific plans to organize such a conference have been made to date.

Peace Boat organizers report that “the main focus of the discussions was the general interest in the 2012 conference on a ‘zone free of weapons of mass destruction.’ In the conference meetings, members pondered how NGOs could potentially contribute successfully to the proposed international conference, including how to encourage respective government bodies to take action. Although the conference hopefully will indeed take place in 2012, political leaders have not begun preparing adequately for the meeting.”

Akira Kawasaki, a Peace Boat coordinator and a Vice Chair of ICAN—the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons—said that the NGO plans to organize a series of civil society roundtables that can engage professionals, academics, journalists, and others in efforts to build public support for the conference and to facilitate confidence building among different constituencies in the region.

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