Monday, April 26, 2010

Indonesia Supports Nuclear-Free Zone in Middle East

Indonesia recently took part in two conferences on nuclear weapons in two countries that are in heated opposition -- the first, a nuclear summit in Washington, DC, and the second a nuclear conference held two days later in Tehran, Iran. Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Teuku Faizahsyah discussed Indonesia's role in both conferences in an interview.

Question: Indonesia was recently involved in conferences on nuclear weapons in Washington and Teheran. What was the motivation behind these two conferences?

Answer: The Nuclear Security Summit in Washington focused more on how to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of irresponsible people and thus endangering international security. So, it focused more on safeguarding nuclear materials. The conference that took place in Tehran focused on attempts to do away with weapons of mass destruction.

Judging from a number of statements that came out of the two conferences, we get the impression of a dispute. On the one hand, the US accuses Iran, and even threatens Iran with nuclear weapons; on the other hand, Iran calls the US a "nuclear criminal."

Question: What actually happened?

I think that we should not look at it from the perspective of competition or a dispute, but see the two forums as discussing issues of importance to Indonesia: the security of nuclear weapons, and how to create a world that is safe and without nuclear weapons. That is the essence of Indonesia's participation in the two forums. So whoever hosts a forum to discuss ways to create a world that is safe through nuclear disarmament and disarmament of other weapons of mass destruction will certainly attract Indonesia's interest.

Question: What about the several countries that have still not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and still don't want to make public their nuclear arsenals, such as Israel, for instance?

Answer: Our stance is clear, that we ask for compliance with the regime for nuclear weapons disarmament that is included in the NPT, so that Israel's nuclear technology can be evaluated by international bodies, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Thereby security and the whereabouts of materials can be determined. One thing we are pushing for is a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

Question: Relating to nuclear weapons in the Middle East, recently a number of Western countries have been competing with each other to sell nuclear technology for energy purposes to a number of Arab countries. Is there concern in the world that this could later lead to the development of nuclear weapons?

Answer: I don't know the technical details, but Indonesia is paying very close attention to the development of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. We see nuclear technology in the framework of three pillars; we reject its spread, support its development for peaceful purposes, and seek nuclear weapons disarmament. Of these three pillars, we still don't know if in the future we will be forced to use nuclear technology for energy purposes or not. That underscores the importance of the role of the IAEA as an international body that can carry out regular checks and assessments, and can evaluate the nuclear energy programs of countries that possess nuclear technology.

Question: Related to the dispute on nuclear issues that led to the trading of threats and counter-threats between Teheran and Washington at the two conferences, what is Indonesia's position?

Our position is quite well understood by Iran: as long as their development of nuclear energy is for peaceful purposes, we are supportive. But, if they use nuclear materials to develop nuclear weapons, we would be among the first to express our objections. And there is no problem with our expressing that objection to a friendly country.

Question: Has Indonesia's support of Iran's program to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes affected its relations with the US?

Answer: No, in the sense that the US understands our position well and knows how concerned we would be if the use of nuclear energy were to be diverted to developing weapons. And, for example, if Iran develops its nuclear capacities for peaceful purposes, we support them, and if they do not, then certainly Iran, also, would understand Indonesia's objections.

Question: Do you consider appropriate the posture of the US threatening to use its nuclear arsenal to attack Iran?

Answer: We do not comment on the attitude of one government towards another government, for this could cause problems. It could be seen as not conducive. We note that the US's position has changed considerably in its nuclear policies. The United States sees that the world should be free from all nuclear weapons, including what has already been agreed to in the reduction of nuclear weapons. This is a process. So, if there is collective motivation to create a nuclear weapons-free world, we will support it and value it. In other contexts, of course, we hope other countries will take similar steps so that the risks of mass destruction can be avoided by us all.

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