rudd in israel_311.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Despite numerous cables released by WikiLeaks showing Sunni Arab leaders imploring the US to take assertive action against Teheran, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement would be a “gamechanger in relation to Iran.”
In an exclusive interview, Rudd said that if the Arab and Islamic world accepted and reconciled itself to a Palestinian-Israeli agreement, it would then be able to “exclusively focus on the challenge of Iran’s nuclear threat to the wider region.”
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A number of cables released by WikiLeaks have shown that privately, Arab leaders have implored the US to stop Iran, without conditioning this on progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track.
Rudd refused to comment on a cable released by WikiLeaks that quoted him as saying in July 2008, when he was Australia’s prime minister, that he was “deeply worried” Israel “may feel forced to use non-diplomatic means” against Iran.
Another cable cited Australian intelligence agencies as expressing concern that an Israeli attack could lead to a nuclear war in the region, and that it was important to work with the US “to prevent Israel from independently launching uncoordinated military strikes against Iran.”
Asked whether he was still worried about Israeli action against Iran, Rudd said the Australian government “does not comment on the content or on the accuracy of cables which have been the subject of unauthorized release.”
Canberra’s position on Iran, he said, was that “in dealing with this complex and deep problem, we must continue to use all the diplomatic means at our disposal.” He said Iran was a major focus of his talks in Jerusalem.
Rudd, in Israel participating in the Australia-Israel Leadership forum, visited a number of Arab countries in the region before arriving on Sunday. In Bahrain, just prior to his arrival, he said Australia wanted all countries to adhere to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), including Israel, which is not a signatory.
The Australian foreign minister defended this position at a press conference Tuesday after meeting Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying that while recognizing Israel’s “unique security circumstances” and acknowledging that movement toward the NPT would be “shaped by the developing security situation in the wider region,” Australia’s fundamental position – one agreed upon by all Australian governments – was that all states should be in the NPT, including Israel.
This position is obviously welcomed in the Arab world. For instance, a US cable from the embassy in Cairo on April 28, 2009, released by WikiLeaks on Monday evening, said that the Egyptian Foreign Ministry believed “that a harder US line in UN fora on Israel’s nuclear program would strengthen the US position on demanding Iran cease working to develop nuclear weapons.”
Regarding the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, Rudd came out squarely against attempts to impose a solution from the outside, saying “all the final-status issues are there for the two parties to determine, not for any third party.”
He also backed Israel’s demand that any agreement constitute an “end of
conflict,” saying that any accord agreed upon should not be “revisited
in the future with any second set of future demands.”
Rudd warned that if what he characterized as the “great and unique
opportunity” to “close this deal now” were not seized, it could lead to
the “recommencement of terrorist activity within the West Bank” and
could call into question “the future posture of the moderate Arab states
that have long supported the peace process.”