Foreign Secretary William Hague hopes Israel will be included in nuclear talks

Foreign Secretary William Hague has said he hopes that Israel will join an international conference aimed at creating a nuclear weapons-free Middle East.

Mr Hague said there had been a “small amount of progress” made by Britain in attempting to convene a session including countries from across the region before the end of the year.

Israel has never acknowledged that it has nuclear weapons and has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but an expert said that its participation in talks could not be discounted.

Mr Hague was asked about the conference in Parliament while discussing Iran’s nuclear programme.

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn suggested it was “odd” that Mr Hague had not mentioned “that Israel actually possesses nuclear weapons and a delivery system” and asked whether a conference on removing weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East would include Israel.

Mr Hague responded: “I do envisage such a conference taking place… there has been a small amount of progress in preparing the way for that in the past couple of weeks. I hope that we will have more to say about it in the next month or so.”

In a five-page response to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s call for a nuclear-free Middle East, Israel last month stressed the complexity of removing weapons of mass destruction given the lack of confidence between countries in the region.

But it added: “Israel attaches great importance to nuclear non-proliferation, and has made great efforts in recent years to abide by and respect global non-proliferation norms.”

A British-based Israeli expert on nuclear arms said there was concern that a conference could be used by other countries to “ambush” Israel. But he said that its participation could “not be ruled out”.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Britain was “very serious” about acting as co-convenor of a conference. He said there was a continued hope that it could be held before the end of the year.

Last updated: 8:30pm, November 20 2013