Israel will not attend a conference on creating a Middle East free of nuclear weapons scheduled to take place in Finland, the head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) has said, as U.S. warned that some Arab states could annul their peace treaties with Israel in case of an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.
Speaking at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Wednesday, IAEC chief Shaul Horev said the situation in the Middle East was not yet “conducive” to the creation of a nuclear weapons-free zone.
“Such a process can only be launched when peaceful relations exist for a reasonable period of time in the region,” Horev said, according to a transcript of his remarks.
The impetus for a nuclear weapons-free zone must come from within the region, he said, according to AFP.
“It cannot be imposed from outside. Regrettably, the realities in the Middle East are far from being conducive,” he said.
“The concept of a region free of weapons of mass destruction, that has never been put to the test, even in the most peaceful regions of the world, is certainly much less applicable to the current volatile and hostile Middle East.”
Earlier this year, Finnish representatives travelled to Israel in a bid to convince the Jewish state to attend the meeting, which comes as the world grapples with the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.
Israel and much of the international community believes Iran’s nuclear program masks a drive for a weapons capability, a charge denied by Tehran, which says its activities are for civilian energy and medical purposes only.
Israel, the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear power, has said it will not rule out unilateral military action against Tehran to prevent it from developing a weapon.
The Jewish state is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which governs and restricts the development of nuclear technology, although it has IAEA membership.
Horev also addressed remarks made last week by Jordan’s King Abdullah II in an exclusive AFP interview, accusing Israel of seeking to foil the kingdom’s nuclear energy program.
“Israel supports the uses of nuclear power by its neighbors, to meet their energy and water needs,” he said.
“Israel believes in the peaceful use of nuclear energy in the Middle East, as long as states fully honor their international non-proliferation obligations.”
The Jewish state, he said, had assisted Amman by providing “comprehensive geological data” to help Jordan decide where to place its nuclear power site.
Iran strike may harm peace deals
Meanwhile, U.S. officials have warned that Egypt and Jordan could annul their peace treaties with Israel and sever all diplomatic ties if the Jewish state attacks Iran’s nuclear sites, a newspaper said on Thursday.
Quoting a high-level Israeli official, the top-selling Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot said Washington had warned that Arab leaders would not be able to control an angry public backlash if Israel were to mount an attack on Iran.
The official, who was privy to the U.S. warning, pointed to the violent response in several Middle Eastern countries to a film insulting Islam, saying: “Today the Arab leaders do not control their peoples, the streets control the leaders.”
“An Israeli strike is just what the Iranians need. The entire Arab and Muslim street will take to the streets to demonstrate,” he said, according to AFP.
“What happened with the film against Mohammed is just a preview of what will happen in case of an Israeli strike,” he said of the unrest which has swept the Muslim world, targeting U.S. embassies and other American symbols and leaving more than 30 people dead.
Egyptian and Jordanian leaders “would not be able to withstand the pressure of the masses and would have to take drastic measures such as the severing of diplomatic ties and annulling the peace agreements, despite the fact that they are personally opposed to a nuclear Iran,” the paper said.
As well as potentially sacrificing its relations with Jordan and Egypt, a strike “would have severe ramifications on ties between Israel and other Muslim countries around the world, which ... would be hard put to remain indifferent.”
Israel has said it cannot rule out preemptive military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Washington has backed tough sanctions against Iran but has publicly differed with Israel over the timetable for any possible military action on its nuclear facilities.