On Monday, Egypt walked out on a round of nuclear talks in Geneva, furious at what they deemed hypocritical behavior on the part of the Israelis. Egypt, which entered the conference with hopes for a nuclear-free Middle East in the near future, will undoubtedly be disappointed in the months (if not years) to come.
The two-week conference in Geneva was meant to discuss updates to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, an international treaty designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The treaty came into effect in 1970, and on May 11, 1995, it was extended indefinitely. At that time, a resolution was made to begin progress towards a nuclear-free Middle East, but no action has been taken since that time. Egypt's walkout was undoubtedly the result of this failure to follow through on the 1995 resolution.
Egypt’s frustration at the talks concerned Israel, which has continuously expressed disapproval of Iran’s nuclear program but has failed to address its own nuclear arsenal. Israel neither confirms nor denies that it possesses nuclear weapons and has failed to sign the NPT. Egypt’s foreign ministry issued a statement on Monday regarding the country's decision to walk out of the talks. "We can't wait forever for the implementation of this decision," the statement said.
Clearly, no progress can be made until Israel signs the NPT and engages in nuclear talks, but U.S. and Israeli officials have said repeatedly stated that a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East cannot be a reality until there is broad Arab-Israeli peace and Iran has curbed its nuclear program. Iran continues to claim that its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful energy purposes.
This is only one example of hypocritical behavior on the part of the Israelis. For example, Israel generally condemns the Palestinian leadership for a failure to engage in peace talks while simultaneously refusing to halt expansion into the West Bank. Just as Israel continues to build in the West Bank, it is unlikely the country will sign the NPT anytime soon.
Furthermore, the participants in Geneva remain distracted by activities on the Korean Peninsula. As North Korea continues to express hostility towards the international community, Geneva participants agree that nuclear disarmament efforts are best geared towards that region for the time being.
Lastly, the Geneva talks, which have included no plans to push for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, are really meant to prepare for the next major review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2015. Reviews are only held every five years. For this reason, it seems that despite attention drawn to the issue, further discussion will not continue until the next review in two years.