Negotiations between the world powers and Iran will succeed only if they lead to
an immediate change in Iran’s behavior and a halt to its enrichment of uranium,
an Israeli government official said Wednesday, commenting on prospects the talks
will begin on April 13.
Iranian media quoted Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali
Akbar Salehi as saying discussions were taking place now about where the talks
between Iran and representatives of the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and
Germany will take place. This group of nations is known as the P5+1 because it
comprises all five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council, plus
Salehi said Turkey, which hosted the talks that ended in failure
last year, had offered to host the talks again. Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Tehran Wednesday for two days of talks on the nuclear
program and the situation in Syria.
According to media reports from Iran,
Erdogan spoke out against any attack on a country “pursuing a peaceful nuclear
While Israel had no formal reaction to the upcoming P5+1 talks,
one official said that the world needed to make it clear to the Iranians that it
was unacceptable for them to “talk and enrich” uranium at the same time.
Earlier this month in Ottawa, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned the world
against “falling into the trap” of allowing the Iranians to buy time through
negotiations to move their nuclear program forward.
“Right now, Iran is
feeling the pressure of economic sanctions, and it could try to evade that
pressure by entering talks,” he said.
To avoid that, Netanyahu laid down
what he said needed to be the three goals of the talks: Iran must stop all
uranium enrichment, remove from the country all uranium already enriched beyond
3.5 percent and close down its underground nuclear facility at Qom.
Saturday, Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor replaced the demand to
close Qom with a call for a much tighter inspection regime.
So far only
Israel has listed these principles as the goals of the talks, with none of the
countries involved in them adopting that language as their own.
official would not say whether Israel viewed this as the last diplomatic
opportunity to solve the Iranian nuclear crisis, but said “we are close to
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has said in recent days
that Israel was giving the talks a chance to see “where they will go.” The last
meeting between Iran and the P5+1 in Istanbul in January 2011 ended without even
an agreement on an agenda.
Since then, Washington and the European Union
have imposed tough new sanctions on Iran, including an EU oil embargo that is
due to go into effect in July and a move by the Society for Worldwide Interbank
Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) to cut off a number of key Iranian banks,
making international financial transactions with those banks all but
While Western diplomats have said it is hard to be optimistic
about the upcoming talks given Iran’s previous track record, analysts say the
negotiations could provide breathing space from the possibility of an immediate
“It will be difficult for the Israelis to attack Iran
while there are nuclear talks ongoing,” said Gala Riani, an analyst at
London-based risk consultancy Control Risks.
“It will also temporarily
boost the position of Western camps... as they will seek to illustrate that
tighter sanctions on Iran are having a desired effect by bringing the Iranians
back to the negotiation table.”
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
is expected once again to lead the talks on behalf of P5+1.
month, the group called on Iran “to enter, without pre-conditions, into a
sustained process of serious dialogue, which will produce concrete
Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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