Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei calls for urgent Middle East peace talks

Channel NewsAsia
12 February 2015

SINGAPORE: Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei has called for a comprehensive Middle East peace conference, modelled on negotiations post-World War I, to tackle the region's security and political crises.

In an exclusive interview on Channel NewsAsia's Between the Lines on Wednesday (Feb 11), Mr ElBaradei said that dealing with issues in isolation is proving to be ineffective in reaching regional solutions. Talks with all major players is the only way to gain a lasting peace, he said.

"At this time in the 21st century, nobody is going to prevail over the other. Either we're all going to be able to swim together or we're all going to sink together," he said.

"People need to get engaged, people need to be able to speak to their leaders. We do not want to see yet another confrontation, yet another war; we need to find a better architecture where we can all live together in peace and dignity. It is doable."

The 72-year-old formerly served as the Vice-President of Egypt before resigning following a violent crackdown on supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi. He was also the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 1997 to 2009, during which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work attempting to prevent the development and use of nuclear weapons.

Mr ElBaradei said a formula needs to be found where fundamental issues and disagreements can be discussed and debated without the threat of confrontation or violence. He alluded to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, where the Allied Powers and Germany negotiated a number of treaties, including the Treaty of Versailles.

"You put everything in the pot - the Iranian issue, the Israeli issue, the Palestinian issue, weapons issues, governmental issues, Syria, Libya - all of these are linked. In the future nothing is going to move unless they do that," he said.

"We have a lot of major issues that we are not addressing and then we are complaining at the end that we have ISIL and Al Qaeda. Well, these are the outcomes of this foul environment."


His comments come as world powers continue to negotiate with Iran over its disputed nuclear programme, with hopes a deal locking in limits on Tehran's ability to enrich uranium will be agreed upon by March. Iran continues to be crippled by international sanctions over its refusal to shut down its enrichment programme, despite claiming its only being used for peaceful purposes.

Mr ElBaradei said ensuring Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon is a priority, and a deal between Iran and the West would be a "win-win". But he said he believes there is an element of hypocrisy that pervades the nuclear debate and without a serious commitment for complete disarmament, Iran will continue to feel vulnerable.

"If you are an Iranian or you are a North Korean, you can ask yourself: 'Why shouldn't I have the same weapons that the big boys are relying on? Why are they telling themselves that they need it for their own security but I cannot touch it?' It's us versus them," he said on the Channel NewsAsia programme.

Israel has been actively critical of the negotiations, with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu telling his Cabinet on Sunday that they "will do everything to thwart a bad and dangerous deal that will cast a dark cloud on the future of the state of Israel and its security".

But Mr ElBaradei said the nuclear issue could not be resolved without first tackling wider issues that continue to cause instability.

"When I talk about a deal with Iran we're not really talking about a deal on nuclear weapons, you are really talking about a deal on regional security. This creates a deep sense of humiliation why Israel is allowed to keep a nuclear arsenal while everybody else is sitting there naked," he said.

Catch the full interview with Mohamed ElBaradei on Between the Lines on Channel NewsAsia, 11pm, on Thursday (Feb 12).