This is a really important development. A few weeks back, concern was being expressed about the difficulty of selecting a venue and facilitator for a promised 2012 conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Now Finland has been chosen as the host, and their Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Laajava will be facilitator.
For many years, the idea of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East has been raised in the United Nations by the Arab states in such a way as to use it as a stick to beat Israel with. But in 2010, the United States and Britain backed an initiative for a WMD-free zone. One of the differences from the earlier version is that some of the Middle East states, like Syria, are believed to have chemical weapons programs. A conference was scheduled for 2012.
Cross-posted from Nuclear Diner.
Simply getting the parties to agree on a venue and facilitator is one more step forward. The events referred to as "Arab Spring" have complicated the planning. Egypt, which is far from having a stable government that responds to the concerns of the protesters, has traditionally been an advocate for such a conference.
Laajava says the timeframe is "broadly 2012," which may have to do with the unrest and changes of governments in the Arab world.
This conference won't come up with a definitive proposal for a Middle East WMD-Free Zone. The best it is likely to do is to agree on some procedural issues and perhaps a statement of goals or general principles and that there will be another conference. But that is more than has been achieved before.