Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu threw cold water Sunday on the Istanbul talks dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, saying they provided Tehran with a
five-week gift from the world to continue enriching uranium.
comments on Saturday’s talks – the first formal reaction from Israel – were at
marked odds with the otherwise upbeat assessments around the world of the
discussions as a “constructive” development.
“My initial impression is
that Iran has been given a freebie,” Netanyahu said of the negotiations between
Iran and a group known as the P5+1 – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and
Germany. At Saturday’s meeting the sides said they arranged to meet again in
Baghdad on May 23.
Iran, Netanyahu said before a meeting with visiting US
Senator Joe Lieberman, now has “five weeks to continue enrichment without any
limitation, any inhibition. I think Iran should take immediate steps to stop all
enrichment, take out all enrichment material, and dismantle the [Fordow] nuclear
facility in Qom.”
Netanyahu said the world’s “greatest practitioner of
terrorism” must not have the ability to develop atomic bombs.
remarks contrasted starkly with US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes’s
comments about the talks.
“We believe... the talks in Istanbul have been
a positive first step, that there was a constructive atmosphere, that the
Iranians came to the table and engaged in a discussion about their nuclear
program,” Rhodes told reporters in Colombia, where US President Barack Obama was
attending a regional summit.
The agreement to meet again in Baghdad next
month was “an additional positive sign,” he said.
Rhodes said the United
States saw room to negotiate over how Iran could meet international obligations
under its nuclear program.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the
Washington-based Arms Control Association, slammed Netanyahu’s
“To suggest that the Istanbul talks have given Iran a ‘freebie’
by allowing Iran to continue uranium enrichment for another five weeks is
illogical and counterproductive,” Kimball wrote in an email to The Jerusalem
“The reality is international and national sanctions will remain in
place until Iran takes the steps necessary to provide confidence it is not
pursuing nuclear weapons. It is naive for Netanyahu to believe that the P5+1
could have demanded that Iran halt all enrichment work and close Fordow and
gotten anything but a brush-off from [Iranian chief negotiator Saeed]
Kimball said that if Israel, the US or its P5+1 partners do not
“seize the potential diplomatic opportunities, the international support
necessary to maintain pressure on Iran will erode and Iran will no longer be
seen as the roadblock to a peaceful resolution.”
In a roundtable
discussion that appeared last month on the Council of Foreign Relations website,
Kimball said that air strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities would “set back
Iran’s program for no more than a couple of years, convince its leaders to
pursue nuclear weapons openly, and lead to adverse economic and security
Reuters contributed to this report.