Talks on establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East appeared to be thrown in doubt on Tuesday as the Western official organizing negotiations said he could not secure the needed attendance of all countries in the region.
The statement by Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava at a meeting in Vienna did not specify which countries had so far refused to attend, but Israel has repeatedly objected to giving up its position as the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the region.
Media reports are suspecting that Iran also has not agreed to attend the talks, but top Iranian officials have repeatedly voiced their support for a NWFZ.
Iran did attend the Vienna talks on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and, along with several Arab states, repeated criticisms of Israel over its covert arsenal of nuclear weapons which it refuses to open up to inspections, or even to officially reveal.
Israel has not signed the voluntary NPT, so was not represented in Vienna at the time. But the U.S. warned that “continued efforts to single out Israel … will make a (Middle East) conference increasingly less likely.” The statement is nonsensical because Israel singles itself out by refusing to sign the NPT and to consider any checks on its nuclear weapons regional monopoly.
The U.S. and Israel have both concluded that Iran has no nuclear weapons program and has demonstrated no intention to start one. Still, each have hurled threats of war in recent months, arguing that a nuclear Iran would endanger the stability of the region. The double standard on Israel is glaring.
If Israel would give up its arsenal and agree to a NWFZ, it could make these persistent tensions moot. It could “be an answer to the Iranian nuclear crisis that threatens to spark regional proliferation and engulf the Middle East in another war” and “remove the sense of double standards over Israel’s nuclear program,” Mark Fitzpatrick, a director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies told Reuters.