Arab, Muslim delegates to gather in Israel for nuke conference

100 representatives, some from states with no formal ties to Jerusalem, expected for summit on banning nuclear testing

CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo (photo credit: AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo (photo credit: AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Delegates from Arab and Muslim states, some without formal ties with Israel, are expected in Jerusalem next week for a conference on nuclear testing sponsored by the United Nations.

Some 100 delegates, including from Egypt and Jordan, are set to arrive for a conference organized by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), an international organization set up to outlaw nuclear weapons headed by Dr. Lassina Zerbo. Israel is a member of the treaty but has yet to ratify it.

To ensure the arrival of those invitees from states with no diplomatic relations with Israel, the Foreign Ministry had to issue travel and safety assurances, the Israeli daily Maariv reported Tuesday.

The purpose of the conference, as reported by Maariv, is to discuss the results of an experiment in Jordan in November 2014. The experiment tested CTBTO inspectors’s abilities to monitor, identify and neutralize nuclear testing, according to the report.

Zerbo is set to meet with Intelligence Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz, heads of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission and other Israel officials to try to persuade an Israeli ratification of the treaty, according to Maariv.

Zerbo, who was in Israel last year, told The Times of Israel at time he thought Israel would “probably” do so.

Israel is “probably the one that could ratify first” of the eight countries that must ratify the treaty before it takes effect, Zerbo told The Times of Israel last year. “The message I’m getting is not ‘if” but ‘when’,” he said.

Israeli sources later told The Times of Israel that, while they knew of no dramatic current initiative to have the CTBTO ratified, a process that requires Knesset approval, they were surprised that Israel had not already ratified it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that he considers the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to be of no use in the Middle East, the sources said, but by contrast Israel considers the CTBTO to be “very significant,” is “proud” to have signed it, and “has never had a problem with the CTBTO.”

Burkina Faso-born Zerbo, a geophysicist by training, said “the concerns we see from Israel are concerns that we can deal with. The trust Israel should have in this treaty is increasing.

“We have a [global] monitoring system that works; the Israeli experts are participating in our technical work, and participating in the framework of development of our site inspection capabilities,” Zerbo added, noting that Israel already hosts certified CTBTO monitoring facilities.

These are a radionuclide laboratory at the Sorek Nuclear Research Center, which Zerbo visited, and seismic monitoring stations in Eilat and Mount Meron. Israel also hosted a 21-country calibration experiment on infrasound technology three years ago.

The CTBTO was established in 1996 in Vienna and was adopted by the UNGA. It works to bring the treaty banning all nuclear explosions into effect by having it ratified by the 44 countries designated to have a nuclear reactor or at least some advanced level of nuclear technology. Eight of those 44 have yet to ratify: Israel, Iran, Egypt, China, the United States, India, North Korea and Pakistan (the last of three of which have also yet to sign the treaty).

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