Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons stockpile only serves to make the Jewish state “a target” and creates “foreign policy problems.”

Putin’s comments, reported by AFP, came in response to questions from reporters on the US and Russia-brokered deal to put Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal under international supervision.

According to AFP, Putin said that Syria had developed chemical weapons “as an alternative to the nuclear weapons of Israel.”

The Russian president claimed that “the technical advantage of Israel – we need to say this directly – is such that it doesn’t need nuclear weapons. Israel is already in a technical military sense several heads above the countries in the region.”

Putin added that “nuclear weapons just make it a target. They just create foreign policy problems.”

The chemical weapons deal with Syria has increased pressure on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Some 190 states have joined the NPT, whose goal is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.

Of the world’s nuclear powers, only four have not joined the treaty. Of these, India, Pakistan and North Korea have all openly tested nuclear weapons. Israel continues with its policy of nuclear ambiguity.

Israel has refused to sign the NPT despite pressure from the international community.

However, when it comes to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the country might be more flexible.

“Israel has an interest in a chemical free zone as opposed to a nuclear-free zone,” Eitan Barak, a professor of international relations from Hebrew University said.

“That would leave Israel with its alleged monopoly on nuclear weapons,” he said.

The state has always kept a low profile when it comes to its own chemical weapons program. They signed the CWC in 1982 but never ratified it, which means that Israel considers itself bound by the spirit of the treaty, but not legally obligated to observe it.

“The main pretext for Israel’s refusal to ratify the treaty was the Syrian arsenal,” Eitan Barak, a professor of international relations from Hebrew University, told The Media Line. “Israel says Syria is a neighboring country, hostile, with a large arsenal of chemical weapons and we need to be able to retaliate.”

He said that given Israel’s pharmaceutical success, it is likely that the state has a significant arsenal of these armaments. Local officials say that efforts to force it to join the CWC are duplicitous.

Linda Gradstein/The Media Line contributed to this report.

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