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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Israel and Iran meet on nuclear issues

Both JPost and Haaretz reported on Thursday morning on a meeting on nuclear issues that took place in Cairo in late September. Official representatives of Israel and Iran were present at the meeting, which took place at the Cairo Four Seasons Hotel, the first time representatives of those two countries sat in the same room since 1979. Iran has denied the story, but Haaretz has enough details to make that denial suspect.
The exchanges between the Iranian and Israeli representatives took place within three panel sessions, each dealing with one of the issues with which the ICNND is concerned - declaring the Middle East a nuclear-free zone, preventing nuclear proliferation in the region and matters of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The two did not meet or shake hands outside the sessions. In one of the discussions, Soltanieh directly asked Zafary-Odiz - and eyewitnesses say he spoke in an impassioned voice, "Do you or do you not have nuclear weapons?" Zafary-Odiz smiled, but did not respond.

During the meetings, Zafary-Odiz explained the Israeli policy of being willing, in principle, to discuss the Middle East as a nuclear-free zone. She also detailed Israel's unique strategic situation, saying regional security must be strengthened, security arrangements must be agreed upon and a peace agreement must be sealed before Israel would feel at liberty to discuss this topic.

Zafary-Odiz said Israel lived in a complex geopolitical reality, noting that in three decades, four countries in the region broke their commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria. She said Israel takes a responsible approach to the nuclear issue as a whole, and that the far horizon of its vision did include the possibility of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, even if the chances for this were slim.

Soltanieh defended his country's policy, and said Iran was not striving for nuclear armament and did not endanger Israel. He said Israel did not understand the mentality and ideology of the Tehran regime. He said the regime did not oppose or hate Jews, but was merely politically opposed to Zionism. He said Iran's growing arsenal of missiles was for defensive, not offensive, purposes.
Australian newspaper The Age adds:
The spokeswoman for Israel's Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) Yael Doron told AFP the commission's representative had held several meetings with an Iranian official "in a regional context" and under Australia's auspices.

Doron declined to give details of the meetings....


Also at the meeting were representatives of the Arab League, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Saudia Arabia, as well as European and US officials, the daily said.

It said the meeting was held under the auspices of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation set up at the initiative of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Iran's state television website dismissed the reports.

"This lie is a kind of psychological operation designed to affect the constant success of Iran's dynamic diplomacy in the Geneva and Vienna meetings," atomic organisation spokesman Ali Shirzadian was quoted as saying.

Yes, this is believable. But the odds of the Middle East becoming a nuclear-free zone are almost non-existent without Iran's nuclear program being completely halted first. There are too many players here.

By the way, Haaretz mentions that one of the people on the board of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), under whose auspices the Cairo meeting took place, is Israel's former foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami. He makes some of Shimon Peres' wilder thoughts look grounded in reality.


At 4:29 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel and Iran have not reached a meeting of the minds. But its significant that what took place (if indeed it happened) was hardly any worse than Israel's encounters with the Palestinians and Arab countries its at peace with. And Iran is a sworn enemy of the Jewish State.



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