Renewed EU-led talks with Iran on nuclear issues failed to deliver major results. A major European push for a UN arms-trade treaty was blocked by the US.
2012 saw intensive but often frustrating negotiations over nuclear non-proliferation and arms-control issues. The main challenge for the EU was the revitalisation of the E3+3 talks with Iran led by High Representative Catherine Ashton. Iran signalled its willingness for talks in January, and meetings were held in April, May, and June. Ashton was reported to have performed well in these negotiations, but there was no substantial progress towards agreement with Iran. By the end of the year, many analysts argued that the best remaining option for diplomacy was bilateral talks between the US and Iran. China and Russia opposed new UN sanctions on Iran, although EU sanctions have put Tehran under increasing pressure.
2012 was also meant to see a conference on creating a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East, mandated by the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Finland agreed to convene this, with support from the UK as well as the US and Russia. As many analysts had foreseen, the diplomatic obstacles to holding the event in 2012 proved insurmountable, and in the third quarter of the year it was postponed until 2013.
European policymakers were also heavily involved in efforts to agree a conventional arms-trade treaty in July. Bulgaria was one of the states involved in facilitating negotiations and other EU member states including France, Germany, Sweden, and the UK made a major political investment in the process. The US, however, eventually undermined the process by insisting on more time for negotiations, possibly to placate its domestic gun lobby before November’s elections. Russia also raised concerns, and China linked its potential support for the treaty to the end of the EU arms embargo against it. China also opposed efforts by the EU and African organisations to allow regional bodies to be party to the treaty. In November, the UNGA passed a resolution calling for completion of talks on the proposed treaty. A further conference is scheduled for March 2013.
|Leaders: Belgium - Bulgaria - Finland - France - Ireland - Sweden - United Kingdom|