Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed appreciation to the United States for stymieing an Egyptian-led drive on a possible Middle East nuclear weapons ban at a major United Nations conference, he said in a statement Sunday night.
It was a rare expression of diplomatic harmony with the United States from Netanyahu, whose relations with President Barack Obama have been strained over US-led nuclear talks with Iran and differences over Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.
A month-long conference in New York on the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended in failure on Friday over disagreements on how to achieve a Middle East atomic weapons ban. Washington blamed the failure on Egypt, which in turn blamed the US, British, and Canadian delegations.
Netanyahu conveyed his gratitude to Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
“The United States kept its commitment to Israel by preventing a Middle East resolution that would single out Israel and ignore its security interests and the threats posed to it by an increasingly turbulent Middle East,” he said in a call to Kerry.
Israel thanked Britain and Canada for joining the United States in blocking the consensus.
“Israel has consistently believed that a gradual approach to arms control and regional security can be achieved through confidence building measures and a direct dialogue with states in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said. “Israel also continues to believe that peace, mutual recognition, and reconciliation are essential precursors to serious progress on arms control.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced disappointment that the NPT parties were “unable to narrow their differences on the future of nuclear disarmament or to arrive at a new collective vision on how to achieve a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.”
Last month, Egypt, backed by other Arab and nonaligned states, proposed that Ban convene a regional conference on banning WMD, as called for at the 2010 NPT review meeting. A planned 2012 conference on the issue never took place.
According to Egypt’s proposal, that conference could take place with or without Israel’s participation, and could be held without agreement on an agenda or discussion of regional security issues – two of Israel’s conditions for participating.
Rose Gottemoeller, the US under secretary for Arms Control and International Security, told the NPT conference on Friday that her country supports global non-proliferation efforts and the idea of nuclear free zones. It had been prepared to vote in favor of Egypt’s proposal, but had issues with the document’s language.
“We have made clear throughout the process that we will not accept the efforts by some to cynically manipulate the Review Conference to try and leverage the negotiation to advance their narrow objectives at the expense of the treaty or of our shared long-standing principles,” Gottemoeller said.
“We attempted to work with other delegations – in particular, Egypt and other Arab League states – to improve the text; but a number of these states, and in particular Egypt, were not willing to let go of these unrealistic and unworkable conditions included in the draft text,” Gottemoeller said.
“The blame for the inability of this conference to produce a forward-looking consensus document, however, lies squarely with those states that were unable to show any flexibility in pursuit of the convening of a Middle East conference that enshrined the principles of consensus and equality.”
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.
Egypt’s proposals, Western diplomats say, were aimed at pressuring Israel. Washington and Israel say Iran’s nuclear program is the real regional threat.
Iran claims its nuclear program is peaceful and is negotiating with world powers to curb it in exchange for lifting sanctions.
Israel has said it would consider joining the NPT only once at peace with its Arab neighbors and Iran.