As the major powers’ talks with Iran ended in Kazakhstan Wednesday with only a
promise to meet again in March and April, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said
the world must make clear to Tehran that there will be “military sanctions” if
it does not halt its nuclear program.
Netanyahu’s comments came at a
Jerusalem meeting with visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L.
“Iran continues to defy the international community, and does not seem to seek an end to its military
nuclear program,” he said.
“Like North Korea, it continues to defy all
As a result, Netanyahu said, “I believe that
this requires the international community to ratchet up its sanctions and make
clear that if this continues there will also be a credible military sanction. I
think no other means will make Iran obey the wishes of the international
US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who
represented the US at the talks, is expected to come to Israel Thursday and brief Israeli
officials on the developments.
The other countries in the group known as
the P5+1 negotiating with the Iranians are Russia, China, France, Germany and
Israeli officials said before the current round of talks that
they were extremely skeptical that the discussions would yield any tangible
results, and that the Iranians were merely using the negotiations to “buy
Iran, meanwhile, was upbeat on Wednesday after the talks in Almaty
ended with an agreement to meet again, although Western officials said Tehran
had yet to take concrete steps to ease their fears about its atomic
Rapid progress was deemed unlikely with Iran’s presidential
election, due in June, raising domestic political tensions. At the talks, the
first in some eight months, The P5+1 offered modest sanctions relief in return
for Iran curbing its most sensitive nuclear work, but made clear that they
expected no immediate breakthrough.
In an attempt to make their proposals
more palatable to Iran, the six powers appeared to have softened previous
demands somewhat, for example regarding their requirement that the Islamic state
ship out its stockpile of higher-grade uranium.
Israel has said it expects
any agreement to lead to an end to all Iranian uranium enrichment, as well as
the transfer out of the country of all stockpiles of enriched
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said the powers had
tried to “get closer to our viewpoint,” which he said was positive.
Paris, US Secretary of State John Kerry commented that the talks had been
“useful” and that a serious engagement by Iran could lead to a comprehensive
Iran’s foreign minister said in Vienna he was “very confident” an
agreement could be reached and Jalili, the chief negotiator, said he believed
the Almaty meeting could be a “turning point.”
However, one diplomat said
Iranian officials at the negotiations appeared to be suggesting that they were
opening new avenues, but it was not clear if this was really the
Iran expert Dina Esfandiary of the International Institute for
Strategic Studies said: “Everyone is saying Iran was more positive and portrayed
the talks as a win.”
“I reckon the reason for that is that they are
saving face internally while buying time with the West until after the
elections,” she said.
The two sides agreed to hold expert-level talks in
Istanbul on March 18 to discuss the powers’ proposals, and return to Almaty for
political discussions on April 5-6, when Western diplomats made clear they
wanted to see a substantive response from Iran.
“Iran knows what it needs
to do, the president has made clear his determination to implement his policy
that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon,” Kerry said.
said the offer presented by the six powers included an easing of a ban on trade
in gold and other precious metals, and relaxing an import embargo on Iranian
petrochemical products. They gave no further details.
In exchange, a
senior US official said, Iran would among other things have to suspend uranium
enrichment to a fissile concentration of 20 percent at its Fordow underground
facility and “constrain the ability to quickly resume operations
The official did not describe what was being asked of Iran as a
“shutdown” of the plant as Western diplomats had said in previous meetings with
the Islamic Republic last year.
Iran’s growing stockpile of 20% enriched
uranium is already more than half-way to a “red line” that Israel has made clear
it would consider sufficient for a bomb. Twenty-percent purity is far higher than
what is needed for nuclear power, and is only a short technical step away from
Iran says it produces the higher-grade uranium to
fuel a research reactor.
In Vienna on Wednesday, a senior UN nuclear
agency official told diplomats in a closed-door briefing that Iran was
technically ready to sharply increase this higher-grade enrichment, two Western
“Iran can triple 20% production in the blink of an eye,”
one of the diplomats said.
The US official in Almaty said the powers’
latest proposal would “significantly restrict the accumulation of near 20%
enriched uranium in Iran, while enabling the Iranians to produce sufficient
fuel” for their Tehran medical reactor.
This appeared to be a softening
of a previous demand that Iran ship out its stockpile of higher-grade enriched
uranium, which it says it needs to produce medical isotopes.
often indicated that 20% enrichment could be up for negotiation if it received
the fuel from abroad instead.
Jalili suggested Iran could discuss the
issue, although he appeared to rule out shutting down Fordow. He said the powers
had not made that specific demand.