FINLAND TO LEAD BID FOR A NUCLEAR WEAPONS FREE MIDDLE EAST
Just imagine a country where a cabinet minister is a member of the peace movement. Then try to imagine a land where the defence secretary wears a CND badge. This is not some wild notion borne of disappointment that our own nation seems incapable of producing a government which is truly committed to peaceful solutions to international problems, but it is the state of affairs in Finland. At CND’s national conference on Saturday 13th October we were addressed by Pekka Huhtaniemi, the Finnish Ambassador, who explained the work of Finland’s former Defence Secretary, Jaakko Laajava, as the convenor of the Conference on a WMD-free Middle East.
The conference, in a response to an Egyptian/Iranian request way back in 1995, has not been much talked about and, indeed, the date has yet to be set. The ambassador was discrete but one had the distinct im-
pression that the sticking point was probably Israel as the only country in the region with nuclear weapons and the only one not to have signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And, if Israel is the problem, then not lagging far behind will be the US. The outcome of the presidential elections is doubtless a crucial factor. Nonetheless we were encouraged not to see the lack of pronouncements as necessarily negative. Quiet diplo- macy from Finland as a non-nuclear state, is possibly the way forward and it seems that one of the issues
of debate is whether the issue of Palestine needs to be resolved first or whether the establishment of a WMD-free zone would, of itself, lead to a peaceful solution. Crucial, the ambassador thought, was the response of civil society to the process and, to that end, CND had invited Sharon Dolev of the Israeli disarmament move- ment to speak. It certainly made a refreshing change to hear a voice of peace and reconciliation coming from that quarter. WATCH THIS SPACE FOR FURTHER NEWS.