Israel said Wednesday there has been no change in its position regarding a nuclear-free Middle East, and that it has not received an invitation to a conference on the matter, sources at the Israeli Nuclear Agency told Haaretz. Their statement comes after the Associated Press reported Israel and Arab countries agreed in principle to attend a conference hosted by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Israel has said for more than a decade that it is ready in principle to hold an unbinding discussion, but not negotiations on “learning from others about the experience of establishing of a nuclear-free zone.” Yet the stance of Arab countries has been that such discussions must be a binding forum, where decisions are made under the supervision of the IAEA.
The IAEA has not received any information regarding a shift in the Arab countries’ stance, raising doubts about the information obtained by AP.
But even if IAEA chief Yukiya Amano succeeds in holding a conference, it will not be a direct continuation of the UN conference that convened in New York less than a year ago and discussed the need to update the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The UN conference, in which Israel did not take part because it is not a signatory, ended with a call for a nuclear-free Middle East. Nuclear-free zones exist in the Pacific Ocean, Central and South America and certain areas in Asia.