United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
The United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday adopted a resolution calling on Israel to renounce its nuclear weapons programme.
The resolution also urged Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and stop developing, producing, testing or obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that is a not party to the NPT treaty. It is known to have nuclear weapons, but refuses to confirm it.
The UN statement also said all Israeli nuclear facilities should be under full International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) control.
The resolution was approved by 161 countries, while five countries (Canada, Micronesia, Israel, Palau, and the United States) voted against it and 18 abstained, including Saudi Arabia.
Israel has not issued any response to the move.
Egypt's Foreign Ministry said the resolution – which was presented by Egypt and backed by Arab countries – was supported by an overwhelming number of countries.
It said the General Assembly had also adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a nuclear free-zone in the Middle East.
Egypt's Ambassador to the UN, Amr Abul-Ata, said the adoption of the resolutions reflected the international community's approval of Egypt's role in the nuclear field.
He also stressed the importance of adherence to the resolution, especially with the approach of the NPT review conference in 2015.
Abul-Ata said Egypt had also presented a third motion on "Prevention of an arms race in outer space," which was voted in favour by 178 countries, with Israel and US against.
The ambassador called on Israel and the US to reconsider their positions.
"Israel will not accede to the UN's decision," political scientist Tarek Fahmy told Ahram Online.
Fahmy – who is a political science professor at the American University in Cairo and specialises in Israeli affairs – explained that the UN General Assembly's decision was not binding on Israel. He said the decision is considered a step towards calling on Israel to join the NPT.
Despite the UN resolution and previous calls to stop its nuclear activities, Israel is continuing to build a new nuclear reactor in the Negev desert that aims to produce electricity, Fahmy said.
He said the NPT review conference in 2015 would be an opportunity to convince Israel, India, Pakistan to comply with the treaty.
The NPT is an international treaty that aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. It was opened for signature in 1968. At the NPT review conference in 2010, the number of states that had signed the treaty reached 172.