Egypt, Russia to Work Harder on Starting WMD-Free Zone Confab

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Sept. 17, 2013, 7:02 a.m.

Fol­low­ing Syr­ia’s prom­ise to give up its chem­ic­al weapons, Egypt and Rus­sia on Monday pledged to work harder to garner Middle East­ern sup­port for a con­fer­ence on es­tab­lish­ing a re­gion-wide ban against un­con­ven­tion­al weapons, IT­AR-Tass re­por­ted.

“We agreed [to] prac­tic­al steps to in­vig­or­ate the pre­par­a­tion of this im­port­ant event, es­pe­cially against the back­ground of the Syr­i­an lead­er­ship’s de­cision to join the Chem­ic­al Weapons Con­ven­tion,” Rus­si­an For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lav­rov said after meet­ing with his Egyp­tian coun­ter­part, Nab­il Fahmy.

Syr­ia’s will­ing­ness to go along with WMD-free zone talks is ex­pec­ted to have re­per­cus­sions on oth­er re­gion­al states thought to pos­sess un­con­ven­tion­al weapons. Syr­ia has a siz­able chem­ic­al-weapons ar­sen­al and a sus­pec­ted bio­lo­gic­al weapons pro­gram.

In­ter­na­tion­al ef­forts in late 2012 to con­vene a U.N.-backed con­fer­ence on ne­go­ti­at­ing a weapons-of-mass-de­struc­tion-free zone for the whole Middle East fell apart after Is­rael would not con­firm its par­ti­cip­a­tion in the event. As Is­rael is widely seen as hold­ing the re­gion’s sole nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al, the Jew­ish state’s in­volve­ment in the con­fer­ence is seen is as es­sen­tial for it to be a suc­cess.

Wash­ing­ton sup­ports Is­rael’s po­s­i­tion that a re­gion­al pro­hib­i­tion on weapons of mass de­struc­tion is not real­ist­ic if there is no all-en­com­passing Ar­ab-Is­raeli peace deal and if Ir­an main­tains its en­rich­ment of urani­um and oth­er nuc­le­ar-weapon-re­lated activ­it­ies.

In­ter­na­tion­al at­ten­tion on Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al ar­sen­al also has meant that some of the spot­light also is on Is­rael’s own sus­pec­ted chem­ic­al-weapon cap­ab­il­it­ies. Is­rael has signed but not rat­i­fied the CWC ac­cord, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­por­ted.

One­time Is­raeli De­fense Min­is­ter Amir Peretz in a Monday ra­dio in­ter­view would not dis­cuss ques­tions about his na­tion’s sus­pec­ted chem­ic­al ar­sen­al. “It’s clear to every­one that [Is­rael] is a demo­crat­ic, re­spons­ible re­gime,” he said. “I very much hope and am cer­tain that the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity will not make this a cent­ral ques­tion and we will main­tain the status quo.”

Is­raeli For­eign Min­istry spokes­man Paul Hirschson said his gov­ern­ment could not rat­i­fy the CWC pact in the present se­cur­ity cir­cum­stances.

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