Peres: We’ll Consider Joining Chemical Weapons Ban, If Syria Complies

THE HAGUE (Reuters) -
Israel’s President Shimon Peres (second right) offers books to International Court of Justice president Judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia (L) in The Hague, Netherlands, on Monday. The court, also known as Peace Palace, is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Israel’s President Shimon Peres (second right) offers books to International Court of Justice president Judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia (L) in The Hague, Netherlands, on Monday. The court, also known as Peace Palace, is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

The Israeli government will seriously consider joining the international treaty banning chemical weapons after Syria said it would destroy its own toxic arsenal, President Shimon Peres said on Monday.

“I am sure our government will consider it seriously,” Peres told reporters in The Hague, the Dutch city that is home to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversees the convention.

As with its nuclear arsenal, Israel has never publicly admitted to having chemical weapons. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said this month that Israel would be ready to discuss the issue when there was peace in the Middle East.

Peres said Syria only joined the convention when facing the threat of military force, but added that Israel would nevertheless consider a call by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for all countries to sign up to the treaty.

Israel remains one of just six countries in the world not to have joined the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention following Syria’s move this month. The other nations not to have joined the convention are Myanmar, Egypt, Angola, North Korea and South Sudan.