The first conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction kicked off on 18 November at the United Nations’ headquarters.

Representatives from across the Middle East gathered in order to negotiate a legally binding treaty establishing a regional zone free of nuclear weapons.

UN chief António Guterres explained the zone would have significance beyond the region, as concerns over nuclear programmes continue to drive tensions.

Currently, there are five nuclear-free zones worldwide: in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific. Guterres warned that there are “signs of active arms competition, including the acquisition and use of new weapon technologies”.

The first Middle East-focused conference will be held annually until a legally binding treaty for the nuclear-free zone is agreed.