PM Netanyahu. (Emil Salman/POOL) (Emil Salman/POOL)
Netanyahu
Lassina Zerbo

CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo. (AP/Jason DeCrow)

Efforts have long been underway by the UN to fully ban nuclear testing, by getting all member states to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Israel signed it in 1996, but, along with the US and other countries, has resisted ratifying it until the proper ‘regional context and appropriate timing.’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that Israel supports the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

He made the comments while meeting with the UN’s Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Executive Secretary Dr. Lassina Zerbo, and said that the State of Israel supports “the treaty and its goals and has, therefore, signed the treaty.”

Israel has yet to ratify the treaty. Netanyahu explained that the “issue of ratification depends on the regional context and the appropriate timing.”

Zerbo arrived in Israel at the invitation of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission Director Zeev Senir. This is Zerbo’s third visit to Israel as CTBTO Executive Secretary and marks 20 years since the CTBT was opened for signing.

“The visit is an expression of the longstanding successful cooperation between Israel and the organization,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

Zerbo spoke to the AP by telephone after meeting with Netanyahu and said Netanyahu did not specify when Israel could actually ratify the treaty, something the UN official said “is normal in diplomacy.”

Zerbo considers ratification by Israel a key step toward a nuclear test-free zone in the Middle East and described the results of Monday’s meeting with Netanyahu as a significant advance on what up to now have been discussions mostly on a technical level between the CTBTO and Israeli experts.

Israel was active in negotiating the treaty and signed it in 1996. Israel is represented in the organization by an envoy with ambassadorial rank and is taking part in building a verification regime for the treaty.

The CTBTO has 196 member states — 183 that have signed the treaty and 164 that have ratified it. The treaty has not been fully implemented because it still needs ratification by eight countries that had nuclear power reactors or research reactors when the UN General Assembly adopted the treaty in 1996: the United States, China, Iran, Israel, Egypt, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel
AP contributed to this report.