The Obama administration is vigorously pursuing a deal with Iran, while Israel warns vehemently against it.
US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for more than an hour on Friday on the sidelines of the annual Munich Security conference to discuss developments in nuclear negotiations between Tehran and six global powers.
Their meeting, which included senior European Union official Helga Schmid, “was focused on the ongoing nuclear negotiations and they discussed the recent meetings of the P5+1,” a senior US State Department official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “Secretary Kerry also reiterated our desire to move toward a political framework by the end of March,” the official added. “They agreed to stay in close touch and that they would try to meet again soon.”
The two had another meeting on Sunday, which lasted for some 90 minutes.
Following the talks with Kerry, Zarif told the Munich conference that the time was ripe now for a deal. “This is the opportunity to do it, and we need to seize this opportunity,” he said. “It may not be repeated.” Zarif added that extending the nuclear talks beyond the preliminary March deadline would not be “useful” or “conducive to an agreement.”
Speaking in Tehran on Sunday, Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds the final word on policy decisions, said no deal would be better than a bad deal, but said he supported the two sides coming together.
“The Americans keep saying no deal is better than a bad deal; we also agree with that,” said Khamenei, according to Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). “No deal is better than a deal which would be in contradiction with the interests of our nation.”
Kerry and Zarif have met repeatedly in recent months in an attempt to break the deadlock in the nuclear negotiations, as the Obama administration seems determined to reach a diplomatic solution with Iran regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear aspirations.
Zarif is also expected to meet the French and Russian foreign ministers in Munich.
Israel Warns the World, Again
A source in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office is quoted by Reuters as warning there may soon be “a dangerous deal enabling Iran to produce nuclear weapons that would threaten the survival of Israel.”
“Prime Minister Netanyahu believes it is his obligation to speak out about this grave threat to the Jewish state while there is still time to stop a bad deal,” the source said on condition of anonymity. Netanyahu has reiterated this message on numerous occasions.
Iran and the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China (known as the P5+1) have set a March deadline to reach an initial agreement ahead of a final deal by June 30. The agreement would limit Iran’s nuclear program to prevent the development of a nuclear bomb in exchange for the lifting of sanctions leveled against Iran by the P5+1.
The negotiations were extended twice after failing to meet previous deadlines.
Iran repeatedly denied that it seeks atomic weapons, claiming its nuclear program is for “peaceful” purposes. Just this past Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed that his country had no interest in building a nuclear bomb.
Iran has refused to halt uranium enrichment and other sensitive atomic projects, leading to Western sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Zarif said all sanctions against his country should be lifted, declaring that if they had been intended to stop its nuclear ambitions they had failed. He said when sanctions had been imposed, Iran had 200 centrifuges, and “now we have 20,000.”
“Sanctions are a liability, you need to get rid of them if you want a solution,” he said. “I think we have made good headway in resolving even that.”
According to all reports, a wide gap still exists between the negotiating parties. Jerusalem is anxiously monitoring developments between Iran and the West. Israel is concerned that the US may settle for a dangerous deal which, according to some analysts, would enable US President Obama to claim a diplomatic achievement.
Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said that the major powers and Iran are “galloping toward an agreement that will enable Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons, which will endanger the existence of the State of Israel.”
Relating to the weekend talks between Kerry and Zarif and the sense that they were pushing for a deal, Netanyahu explained that “from this stems the urgency of our efforts to try and block this bad and dangerous agreement.”
Netanyhau vowed to carry on with his actions and to lead the international effort against Iran’s arming itself with nuclear weapons. “We will do everything and will take any action to foil this bad and dangerous agreement that will place a heavy cloud over the future of the State of Israel and its security.”
Israeli media sources report that the American president had caved in to most of Iran’s demands regarding its nuclear aspirations. European diplomats fear that the US acquiesced in return for an assurance of regional calm and stability, Israel’s IDF Radio reported last week.
Israel’s Channel 10 quoted Jerusalem officials, who said that the Obama Administration “has given the Iranians 80 percent of what they want.”
By World Israel News staff