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US scuttles Mideast nuclear-free zone —for Israel

The 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) concluded at the UN in New York on May 22 without approving a final document—due to US blocking of a provision on creating a Middle East nuclear-free zone. The US blocked the document, saying Egypt and other Arab states tried to "cynically manipulate" the process by setting a March 2016 deadline for Middle East nations to meet on the proposal—including Israel. The US was joined by the UK and Canada in blocking the document. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked US Secretary of State John Kerry for blocking. Israel of course had no vote, as a non-signatory to the NPT. (APInterfax,The Guardian, May 23; Xinhua, May 22)

The US sent assistant secretary of state Thomas Countryman to Israel before the talks. Five years ago, the US angered Israel by signing on to a declaration proposing talks on the nuclear-free zone by 2012. This time, the US sought a compromise that would satisfy the Arab states but not alienate Israel. (RFE/RL, May 22) But failing that, the US this time around caved to Israeli pressure. The nuclear-free zone proposal has blocked progress at NPT meetings since it was first introduced by Egypt in 1990. Israel, while refusing to confirm that it has nuclear weapons, has insisted the proposal should be in the context of a general peace settlement in the Middle East, and be subject to "mutual verification measures"—conditions rejected by Egypt and the Arab states. (Arms Control Association, May 2015)

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