UN Nuclear Arms Confab Collapses Over Israel Row

UN Nuclear Arms Confab Collapses Over Israel RowUN Nuclear Arms Confab Collapses Over Israel Row

A month-long review conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons ended in failure on Friday after its members were unable to overcome disagreements on an atomic weapons ban for the Middle East, which the United States blamed on Egypt.

The Egypt-backed plan had envisaged a regional forum which analysts say might have forced Israel to reveal whether or not it has nuclear weapons. Israel neither confirms nor denies it has a stockpile of nuclear weapons, BBC said in a report.

US Under Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller announced there was “no agreement” and accused some countries of undermining the negotiations.

Gottemoeller did not say which nations had tried to “cynically manipulate” the conference, though she accused Egypt and other Arab states of bringing “unrealistic and unworkable conditions” to the negotiations.

“Egypt wrecked the conference. Egypt overshot the runway and has prevented the region from moving closer to a region free of (weapons of mass destruction),” said another senior western diplomat in a more straightforward remark.

Egypt denied the accusation and warned that the failure to reach a deal “will have consequences in front of the Arab world and public opinion.”

The US and Britain refused to accept the establishment of an “arbitrary” deadline to hold a conference on a zone that would be free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, and Canada objected to a process that didn’t include Israel, which has not signed the treaty.

Cairo’s top delegate, assistant foreign minister Hashim Badr, blamed Washington, London and Ottawa for the failure to achieve consensus, saying it was a “sad day for the NPT.”

 Egypt-Backed Conference

Last month, Egypt, backed by other Arab and non-aligned states, proposed that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convene a regional conference on banning weapons of mass destruction as called for at the 2010 NPT review.

The conference would be with or without Israel’s participation, without agreement on an agenda and with no discussion of regional security issues. Those conditions are unacceptable to Israel and Washington.

Israel neither confirms nor denies the widespread assumption that it controls the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal. Israel, which has never joined the NPT, agreed to take part in the review meeting as an observer, ending a 20-year absence.

Decisions at NPT review conferences, which are held every five years, are made by consensus. However, the failure of the current talks means the next gathering could only be held in 2020 at the earliest.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty was enacted 45 years ago to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to reduce and ultimately eliminate existing stockpiles. It now has 189 signatory nations, and conferences are held every five years to review its status and direction.

Discussions this month ranged beyond the Middle East — from the conflict between Russia and Ukraine to North Korea’s errant missile tests, from stockpile modernizations underway in every nuclear-armed state to a coalition of non-nuclear states who are trying to lay the groundwork for a global ban on the weapons.