Australia has helped accomplish the seemingly impossible - bringing Israel and Iran into the same room for high-level talks on nuclear weapons.
The meeting took place with little public fanfare in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, last month as part of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, an expert panel assembled by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to help rid the world of nuclear arms.
Coming only days after Tehran revealed it had secretly constructed a uranium enrichment plant, participants said there was a ''very robust exchange'' between the Israeli and Iranian officials.
Iran's suspected nuclear weapons ambitions have drawn widespread condemnation, while Israel is the only regional country to possess atomic weapons - a program Tel Aviv has never officially acknowledged.
While careful not to claim any breakthrough at the talks, sources have told The Age both sides engaged in ''serious discussions'' and canvassed the idea of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East.
Contact between Israeli and Iranian officials is sporadic and only takes place at international forums - no formal meetings between the two countries have occurred since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Officials from Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and other regional countries also took part in the three-day meeting and it is believed the talks floated an idea for a further regional conference - possibly hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - to outline the broad aims of a treaty to create a Middle East nuclear-free zone.
Similar ideas have stalled in the past over the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict and questions of security guarantees for Israel. But last month's talks in Egypt attempted to skirt such obstacles by focusing on proposals to safeguard any fissile material in the region that could potentially be used for nuclear weapons.
Iran's senior envoy to the meeting was its ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh.
Israel sent the director of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, Merav Zafary-Odiz. Israel's former foreign affairs minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, was also at the meeting in a non-official role.
The high-level representatives are believed to have impressed regional diplomats who observed the proceedings.
A further meeting of the commission - jointly chaired by Australia and Japan - begins in Hiroshima at the weekend in advance of a final report expected at the end of the year.
A Lowy Institute poll this week appeared to deliver strong backing for the Government's nuclear disarmament efforts, with 69 per cent of Australians rating their most serious international fear as the threat that unfriendly countries might obtain nuclear weapons.
Source: The Age