Israel's close cooperation with the CTBTO

The Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Lassina Zerbo, made his first official visit to Israel as head of the organization from 18 to 19 March. During his visit, Zerbo met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Minister of Intelligence, International Relations and Strategic Affairs, Yuval Steinitz, and with the head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC), Shaul Chorev.

Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo (left) with Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Zerbo also visited the Soreq Nuclear Research Center (SNRC), which hosts Israel’s National Data Centre and the radionuclide laboratory RL09, which operates as part of the verification regime of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). The Executive Secretary expressed his appreciation for Israel’s long-standing support for the CTBTO’s work, noting that all three International Monitoring System (IMS) facilities hosted by Israel are certified and operational.

...and with Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Intelligence, International Relations and Strategic Affairs.

During his discussion with senior officials and at a roundtable seminar hosted by the  Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Zerbo addressed Israel's primary concerns regarding ratification of the CTBT. In this regard, he emphasized that the sustainment and further development of the verification system, which is already effective, as well as enhanced collaboration between the States in the region and the CTBTO will create a framework for building trust and confidence among countries in the wider Middle Eastern region. This, he believed, would pave the way towards ratification by the remaining Annex 2 States in the region.
I honestly believe that Israel could be one of the first of the remaining Annex 2 States to ratify. We will do our best to work with Israel to further enhance conditions of confidence in the verification capabilities and trust in the monitoring system, which I believe will pave the way for Israel to play a leadership role in the region towards entry into force of the Treaty. In this regard, data transmission from China was appreciated and seen as an important step in the right direction.

After a visit of Zerbo to China in August 2013, China decided to proceed with the provision of data from the CTBTO's monitoring stations in China to the organization's International Data Centre in Vienna. As of January 2014, the data is flowing.

Following the meetings in Jerusalem, Zerbo said: "I was also pleased that both Minister Lieberman and Minister Steinitz expressed strong interest in the verification regime and the work of the organisation in creating a framework conducive to regional confidence building and cooperation among States in the Middle East. To this end, the Integrated Field Exercise IFE2014 in November in Jordan presents an important and timely opportunity for States in the region to further enhance their collaboration and support for the CTBT verification regime."

The Executive Secretary also visited the Old City of Jerusalem including several Holy sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Kotel/Western Wall of the Temple, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque where he met with Sheikh Azzam Khatib. During a personal discussion with the Sheikh, Zerbo conveyed a personal message on the importance of peace and tolerance.

Zerbo with Sheikh Azzam Khatib at the Dome of the Rock

Although the CTBT has been signed by 183 countries of which 162 have also ratified, it can only enter into force after it has been ratified by the eight remaining countries defined as nuclear technology holders (Annex 2 States) by the Treaty: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States. See interactive map of the Treaty’s status in the region. Israel signed the CTBT on 25 September 1996, a day after it was opened for signature.
The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions. The CTBTO is building a verification regime to monitor the planet for compliance with the Treaty. Nearly 90% of the global network of 337 facilities to monitor underground, the oceans and the atmosphere for nuclear explosions have already been established.

Israel hosts three IMS facilities, all of which are certified and operational: Two auxiliary seismic stations, at Eilath and on Mount Meron, and a radionuclide laboratory at the Soreq Nuclear Research Centre Yavne. In 2011, Israel hosted a CTBT infrasound experiment in the Eastern Mediterranean – see video. See country profile for more information. See also interview with the Executive Secretary in The Times of Israel: "Israel 'probably' next to ratify nuke test ban treaty - top official"

Auxiliary seismic station AS48 in Eliath, Israel - click for station profile.