The world powers negotiating with Tehran over its nuclear program will not “run after Iran to plead with them” to stay in the talks if they feel the negotiations are not going anywhere, British Ambassador Matthew Gould said Tuesday.
Gould spoke to reporters in Tel Aviv just prior to the beginning of “technical talks” in Istanbul Tuesday between Iran and the P5+1 – the US, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany.
These talks follow three rounds of negotiations that went nowhere.
Gould – sounding a lot like Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has said the Iranians were using the talks to continue pursing their nuclear goals – said Iran has so far “clearly tried to string the talks out and buy time.”
He said this would not work.
“If Iran thinks they will bamboozle us through game playing and negotiations they will be disappointed,” he said. “We are not naïve, not stupid. Our chief negotiator to the talks was our ambassador to Iran, Sir Geoffrey Adams – we have a great deal of experience, and are not going to be easily fooled.”
The British ambassador noted that even as the Istanbul talks took place, the EU on Sunday imposed an embargo on Iranian oil. The EU accounted for some 20 percent of Iran’s oil revenues in 2011, he said.
As a result of the oil ban and other actions taken against Iran’s oil industry, Iran is pumping one million less barrels of oil a day, and it will lose $8 billion of revenue each quarter, the envoy noted.
“For now we don’t believe that military action would be right,” Gould said, adding that the impact of the sanctions on Iran are “severe, and we will continue down that track.
We will continue with the sanctions, enforce them and extend them.”
The British ambassador said that the there was an “impressive measure of unity” inside the P5+1, including unity demonstrated by Russia and China, and that the Iranians were disappointed if they thought they could play Russia and China against the other countries inside the group.
He also said that concerns China and Russia would undercut the sanctions against Iran have not materialized, and that the Chinese have not increased their oil imports from Iran.
China “is aware of the serious weight of international opinion” on this issue, he said.
Gould, who served earlier in his career for over two years in Tehran, said the “right level of economic pressure can work” to convince the regime there to abandon its program. He would not, however, set a deadline.
As the economic news in Tehran gets worse, he said, the regime will have to make a decision whether to continue to “watch their economy fall off a cliff, and all that entails, or do they change course. Can I guarantee this will work? No, but it is the best available option.”
Israel, he said, also has a clear preference for a negotiated solution.
He said that Britain understood the “profound level of concern in Israel and among senior governmental figures who say this is an existential threat for Israel. We totally understand that, and don’t seek to minimize or diminish the level of concerns.” As a result of these concerns, and the fact that Israel is not at the talks with the Iranians, he said that Jerusalem is being briefed continuously and intensively about what is taking place at the talks.
“We continue to work incredibly close with the government here,” he said.