Talks on ban of WMDs in Middle East move to Geneva

Informal talks between Israel and its Middle Eastern neighbors about the potential elimination of WMDs from the region will take place in Geneva on May 14-15.

Participants in the talks are seeking to lay the groundwork for a major Middle Eastern conference in Helsinki, Finland, in which the states would discuss banning all WMD materials from the region. The long-term disarmament would presumably require Israel to let go of its alleged unacknowledged nuclear stockpile, join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and ratify the Biological Weapons Convention, National Journal reports.

If the parties agree on a WMD-free Middle East, Egypt and Syria would also need to ratify the Biological Weapons Convention, which they previously signed.

No date has been set for the potential conference in Helsinki.

The meetings follow action last week by member nations of the NPT calling on Israel to join the accord as a non-weapons state. U.S. officials argued that the proposed language on Israel and the WMD-free zone failed to recognize recent progress, setting an unconstructive tone for future talks.

"(The Geneva session) will be a good indication of the sides' willingness to take more substantial steps towards compromising on the outstanding issues," Chen Kane, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said, according to National Journal.

The Middle East consultations in Geneva will take place at the same time as negotiations between world powers over Iran's contested nuclear program. Tehran said its key nonproliferation diplomats could not break away from the nuclear talks to discuss the WMD-free zone, National Journal.