Israel, Arab States Meet Quietly to Discuss Nuclear Disarmament
Israel and Arab states have met three times in Switzerland to discuss “a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East,” the Wall Street Journal‘s Washington Wire reported on Monday citing a participant at their most recent meeting.
The meetings began in October and the third round was held in February, at the Swiss resort town of Glion. It was led by Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava, working for the United Nations.
The WSJ said the UN tasked Laajava to stage a formal conference on the establishment of a nuclear-free Mideast, which was mandated by its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, in 2010.
“Israel has agreed to take part in the exploratory talks despite concerns the Jewish state will be singled out by Arab government,” the WSJ said. “Israel is believed to have the only nuclear-weapons arsenal in the Mideast, but its government refuses to confirm or deny them. Iran sent a low-level diplomat to the first round in Glion, but hasn’t attended the last two sessions, according to diplomats. The Iranian official told participants he was only in attendance to ‘observe’ the discussions.”
These low-level talks in Switzerland are being held at the same time as the more high-profile negotiations in Vienna, where world powers are trying to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program in exchange for returning to the international economic community.
While world powers seem amenable to Iran maintaining a civilian nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, backed up by several U.S. senators, including John McCain, insist that any nuclear capability will be a front for a clandestine program to create a nuclear warhead.
Speaking at the 2014 AIPAC Policy Conference last week, McCain said: “I believe the Iranian people can have access to peaceful, civilian nuclear energy, but that doesn’t require an industrial uranium enrichment program, it doesn’t require a heavy water reactor, it doesn’t require advanced centrifuges, and it certainly doesn’t require nuclear facilities dug deep in the mountains.”