Amid a row with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over Iran's nuclear program, US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday rebuffed remarks made by the premier that a partial deal with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program would jeopardize Israel's security interests.
In a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, Kerry said nuclear negotiations in Geneva between world powers and Iran would in contrast reduce the risk faced by Israel.
"I have great respect for [Netanyahu's] concerns about his country," Kerry said, adding that "I can assure those friends and everybody else watching this that nothing that we are doing here, in my judgment, will put Israel at any additional risk."
According to Kerry, negotiators in Geneva were seeking a first-step agreement that would urge Iran to prove its disputed nuclear program was for peaceful purposes.
"The Prime Minister should express his concerns, and he has every right in the world to publicly state his position and defend what he perceives as his interests," he stated.
Kerry also said that he had postponed a trip to Israel scheduled for later this week
“As the secretary stated, they’ve discussed the best timing for the visit,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at her daily press briefing, adding that Kerry still plans to travel to Israel in the next several weeks.
“Obviously there’s a lot going on right now.”
The delay comes as talks are set to restart on Wednesday for the third time in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 – the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France and Germany – where negotiators hope to forge an interim deal over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
During the previous round of talks earlier this month, Kerry traveled directly from meetings with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv to Geneva, where he met with the Iranians to discuss the possible agreement.
At the time, the prime minister offered scathing remarks to gathered press over what he considered a “very, very bad deal,” supported strongly by the United States.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama will meet with Senate leaders from both parties on Tuesday as senators weigh whether to impose new sanctions on Tehran, the White House said.
Republicans and some of Obama’s fellow Democrats in Congress argue that more sanctions are needed.
Obama urged Congress last week to hold off on new sanctions and sought to reassure lawmakers that any easing would be “modest” and could be quickly reversed if Iran showed it was not serious about curbing its nuclear program.
The meeting on Tuesday at the White House will include Senate leaders from both parties as well as the chairmen and ranking Republicans from the Senate Banking, Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Intelligence committees.
Obama would provide them with an update on the negotiations in Geneva, Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said.Reuters contributed to this report.