Israel sidesteps nuclear-free Mideast in secret talks with NPT official (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Amir Oren 04/11/12)
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Finland´s Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs visited
Jerusalem secretly last week for talks with Israeli counterparts
about Israel´s involvement in a conference to ban nuclear arms from
the Middle East. Two years ago Israel voiced opposition to such a
The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty conference is scheduled to be
held in Helsinki in December but could be deferred until 2013. The
main item on the agenda is likely to be attempts made by Arab states
and Iran to curb Israel´s nuclear capability.
Israel wants to coordinate its positions with the United States. The
Americans support the staging of such a conference. They are worried
that its cancelation could serve as a pretext to undermine their
efforts to promote the NPT, and could erode U.S. President Barack
Obama´s vision of a nuclear-weapon-free world.
However, during last week´s meetings with Finland´s Jaakko Laajava -
the NPT conference coordinator - Israeli representatives did not
agree to Israel´s involvement in the disarmament talks in Finland.
Laajava met with an Israeli team of officials headed by Foreign
Ministry Deputy Director General Jeremy Issacharoff. Representatives
from Israel´s National Security Council and the Atomic Energy
Commission also took part in the talks.
Issacharoff and his colleagues voiced reservations about the
conference´s timing. They claimed it should not be held until regimes
in the region, particularly in Egypt and Syria, stabilize.
Issacharoff is coordinating the Foreign Ministry´s handling of the
Iranian nuclear issue. As a sign of Israel´s reservations about the
conference, discussions with Laajava have been held by professional
diplomats, rather than by senior officials in Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu´s government such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and
Minister Dan Meridor, who represented the government at a nuclear
security conference held in Seoul last month. In other countries,
Laajava has met with higher-ranking figures. For instance, he met in
Tehran in January with Iran´s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
The decision to proceed with the conference, despite Israel´s
opposition, is incorporated in an agreement document issued by the
treaty´s fifth annual review conference, held in New York in May
2010. The U.S. State Department expressed "deep regret" about an anti-
Israel clause that appeared in this document, and Israel protested
its inclusion. Still the document was not repealed.
The Obama administration has pursued a successful tactic of delaying
the convening of the Middle East conference until the end of 2012,
and after the upcoming presidential elections.
Since his appointment in October as coordinator of the Helsinki
conference, Laajava has held dozens of meetings with UN officials and
with representatives of countries that have permanent membership in
the UN Security Council and of countries in this region. He has met
two or three times with Israeli diplomats.
Laajava, who competed for this NPT post against a Dutch diplomat, was
appointed to coordinate the disarmament conference by UN Secretary-
General Ban Ki-moon and by three of the five permanent Security
Council members - the United States, Russia and Britain. At the fifth
NPT annual conference in 1995, these three countries sponsored a
proposal for the establishment of the Middle East as a region free of
nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Israel, which was busy at the time with the Oslo Accords peace
process, agreed in principle with this proposal, but predicated its
application on the arrangement of a comprehensive peace accord, and
upon a definition of the Middle East that would include countries not
contiguous with it, particularly Iraq and Iran.
The idea, also discussed at the 2000 and 2005 review conferences,
gained momentum two years ago, when the Arab League, headed by Egypt,
harnessed itself to Obama´s enthusiasm for disarmament issues. During
the last day of the 2010 conference, the United States assented to
Egypt´s demand for the holding of a regional disarmament conference
U.S. officials fear that failure during this Helsinki meeting will
reinforce forces in countries that are considering pulling out of the
Under the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt led the
campaign to compel Israel to join NPT frameworks and to initiate
disarmament discussions that relate simultaneously to Israel and
Iran. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 04/11/12)
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