Netanyahu backs ratifying nuclear test ban treaty contingent on “regional context” and “appropriate timing”

Following meeting between Netanyahu and Executive Sec. of CTBTO, Prime Minister signs treaty, announces that Israel prepared to ratify treaty, however with no commitment to time frame

Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses journalists in a press conference Thursday (EPA)

Israel will ratify a treaty banning nuclear tests depending on “regional context and appropriate timing”, the announcement made by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Office following a meeting with Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

Zerbo was invited to Israel by head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, Zeev Senir, meeting with Senir, Netanyahu and other Israeli officials during his two-day visit to the region.

Netanyahu signed the treaty on Monday, a statement released by his office that “Israel supports the treaty and its goals” but that ratification “depends on the regional context and the appropriate timing.” Zerbo spoke with the Associated Press following his meeting with Netanyahu and stated that the prime minister supports the treaty, the question remaining “when, rather than if,” describing the progress as “normal in diplomacy”.

Ahead of his visit to Israel, Zerbo stated in Vienna that “One idea that has reemerged over the last few months is the establishment of a nuclear-test-free zone in the region” however that “the establishment of a Middle East WMD-free-zone has stalled. It continues to be one of the chief challenges in the NPT process. A nuclear-test-free zone could be a building block toward the establishment of the WMD-free zone. I see such a zone taking shape through joint ratification of the CTBT by these countries. All have signed the treaty, so ratification does not require any policy U-turns.”

Reports suggest Netanyahu’s support for the treaty is a diplomatic measure to improve relations with Egypt and Gulf states. Additionally, the meeting between Netanyahu and Zerbo falls on the 20th anniversary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the visit described by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Office as “an expression of the longstanding successful cooperation between Israel and the organization.”