Arab League meeting Israel will join.
Some good news perhaps!
Israel and Arab states held their third round of exploratory talks in the Swiss resort of Glion last month that are focused on establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, according to a participant.
The discussions, largely kept from the public eye, are being held under the auspices of the United Nations and led by a Finnish diplomat, Jaakko Laajava. The dialogue was running in parallel to the negotiations in Vienna between Iran and global powers that are aimed at scaling back Tehran’s nuclear program.
The participant in the talks, and diplomats briefed on them, downplayed the potential for any major breakthroughs in the near term. But they said the sustained presence of midranked Israeli and Arab diplomats discussing the nuclear issue is encouraging.
The first round of talks last October was also held in Glion, a mountain retreat overlooking Lake Geneva. The U.N. empowered Mr. Laajava to try and stage a formal conference on the establishment of a nuclear-free Mideast. The U.N.’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference mandated it in 2010.
“It’s definitely been useful,” said a Mideast diplomat who took part in the most recent round in February.
Israel has agreed to take part in the exploratory talks despite concerns the Jewish state will be singled out by Arab government. 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.
U.N. officials hope progress in the negotiations to scale back Tehran’s nuclear program can have wider repercussions in the region. Israel and most Arab governments are concerned Tehran is developing nuclear weapons that could set off a larger arms race in the region. Iran says its nuclear program is solely for civilian purposes.
Israel and the U.S. both say they support the formal establishment of a nuclear-weapons free zone in the Mideast. But both countries said such declaration was unlikely until Israel forges peace agreements with the Palestinians and its other Arab neighbors, Lebanon and Syria.