Israel welcomed US Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments on Monday in Riyadh
that there was not infinite time for talks to bear fruit between Iran and world
powers over Teheran’s nuclear program.
“That sort of language is echoing
our thoughts as well,” one Israeli government official said. He added that Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the only thing the recently
concluded round of discussions in Kazakhstan achieved was to allow the Iranians
to stall for more time.
Kerry did not, however, hint in his comments how
long Washington would be willing to continue to negotiate with the
Kerry’s statement about a “finite” time for the talks was
picked up by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who said that the
negotiations cannot be endless like the debates of philosophers over how many
angels can fit on the head of a pin.
“There is a finite amount of time,”
Kerry, in the Saudi capital Riyadh on his first overseas trip as the top US
diplomat, said of the talks between a group of six world powers and Tehran,
Saudi Arabia’s main regional adversary.
Kerry was speaking at a news
conference with Prince Saud al-Faisal, who suggested Iran was not showing enough
seriousness about the discussions, which he said “cannot go on
Iran was positive last week after talks with the powers in
Kazakhstan about its nuclear work ended with an agreement to meet again. But
Western officials said it had yet to do anything concrete to allay their
concerns about its nuclear aspirations.
The United States, China, France,
Russia, Britain and Germany offered modest relief from economic sanctions in
return for Iran reining in its most sensitive nuclear activity but made clear
that no breakthrough was in the offing quickly.
“We can’t be like the
philosophers who keep talking about how many angels a pinhead can hold,” Prince
Saud al-Faisal said.
“They (the Iranians) have not proved to anybody the
urgency in their negotiation,” he said. “They reach common understanding only on
issues that require further negotiation.
And so this is what (has)
One Israeli official said he was not surprised by the
comments. “The Arab states are just as concerned about a nuclear Iran as we
are,” he said. “When it comes to Iran, there is no Arab-Israeli
Making his first trip abroad as secretary of state, Kerry also
met Saudi Crown Prince Salman but a US official said he would not see Saudi King
Abdullah, who turns 90 this year.
Kerry said a diplomatic solution on
Iran is still preferred by the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh’s ambassador to Washington said King Abdullah had repeatedly urged
Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” by striking Iran’s nuclear
facilities, according to a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.
both prefer – and this is important for Iranians to hear and understand – we
both prefer diplomacy as the first choice, the preferred choice,” Kerry said.
“But the window for a diplomatic solution simply cannot by definition remain
Echoing Western concerns about a possible nuclear
arms race in the Middle East in the event that Iran obtained a nuclear bomb,
Kerry made a series of arguments for Gulf Arab countries not to pursue a
military nuclear capability.
These included standing US policy to prevent
Iran from acquiring such arms, the dangers of nuclear proliferation, the
diversion of resources that could otherwise go to economic development, and the
general trend by the United States and Russia toward reducing their doomsday
“The threat is not just the threat of a nuclear bomb, the
threat is also the threat of a dirty bomb or of nuclear material being used by
terrorists,” said Kerry.
In December 2011, former Saudi intelligence
chief Prince Turki al- Faisal said that if Tehran did gain nuclear weapons
capability, Saudi Arabia should consider matching it.
Riyadh has also
announced plans to develop 17 gigawatts of atomic energy by 2032 as it moves to
reduce domestic oil consumption, freeing up more crude for export.
Vienna on Monday, the UN nuclear watchdog raised pressure on Iran to finally
address suspicions that it has sought to design an atomic bomb, calling for
swift inspector access to a military base where relevant explosives tests are
believed to have been carried out.
Herb Keinon contributed to this