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Israeli Officials, Envoy Quietly Discuss WMD-Free Zone Conference

Israeli officials and a senior Finnish envoy met quietly last week to discuss Tel Aviv's potential participation in an upcoming conference on establishing the Middle East as a WMD-free zone, Haaretz reported on Wednesday (see GSN, April 4).

Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava is the "facilitator" for the event, which was called for by the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference and is tentatively scheduled for December in Helsinki.

Securing Israel's involvement in the event has been a main goal of organizers. However, Israeli officials led by Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General Jeremy Issacharoff did not say whether the nation definitively would or would not attend during the recent meeting in Jerusalem, the newspaper reported.

The Israeli officials argued that ongoing conflicts in Middle Eastern states including Egypt and Syria should be resolved before conducting the conference. Tel Aviv's ambasador to the United Nations said in March regional peace should be established before a WMD-free zone conference occurs, according to previous reporting.

The government's decision against sending higher-level officials to meet with Laajava is indicative of its concerns about the conference. The facilitator in dozens of meetings has generally met with more senior officials in other nations, including Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.

Israel is widely accepted to be the only nuclear-armed nation in the Middle East. It has warned of its readiness to use force as necessary to curb suspected nuclear-weapon efforts by Iran (Amir Oren, Haaretz, April 11).

Israel on Wednesday confirmed the meeting with Laajava, Agence France-Presse reported.

"The Finnish representative was in Israel recently but it was not a secret; it was a normal meeting," according to Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

"No decisions (on attending the conference) have been taken so far on the Israeli side but the talks are ongoing," he added (Agence France-Presse/Yahoo!News, April 11).


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