Barak with Colombian President Santos 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the fresh round of
talks with Iran “serious” on Monday, but said that Tehran would have to take
more concrete action before sanctions would be eased.
speaking at a press conference in Brazil following talks between Iran and the
P5+1 – France, Germany, Russia, the UK, US and China – this weekend in Istanbul,
the first such negotiations in more than a year.
“The initial discussions
between the P5+1 and Iran were serious and focused on the nuclear issue,”
Her comments stood in contrast to the American reaction to
the last round of consultations, during which the Iranians would not address the
nuclear issue and the West spoke of frustration with the lack of progress
The two sides agreed to meet again in Baghdad at the end of May,
But asked whether the US would consider easing sanctions –
a move the Iranians indicated would help facilitate negotiations – Clinton
rejected the notion.
“I believe in action for action. But I think in this
case, the burden of action falls on the Iranians to demonstrate their
seriousness,” she said. “And we’re going to keep the sanctions in place and the
pressure on Iran as they consider what they’ll bring to the table in Baghdad,
and we’ll respond accordingly.”
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Iran agreed to reenter talks after the US
and EU began to impose the most extreme sanctions to date, a move that many
experts credit with pushing Iran to come back to the negotiating
Some critics of the administration were less positive about the
talks than Clinton. Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern
Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and a former George
W. Bush White House adviser, attacked Clinton’s assessment that the talks
“How was it that Iran’s seriousness was tested in a
meeting where no concrete proposals appear to have been made, much less agreed
to?” Abrams asked in a CFR analysis. “The fact that there appear to have been no
concrete proposals discussed, yet the next meeting is delayed now for five
weeks, suggests skepticism about Iranian ‘seriousness.’”
He added that the next
round of talks could well lead to a further meeting over the
“After all, if concrete proposals are tabled one mustn’t rush the
Iranians; they must have time to take them home to Tehran and think them
through,” he wrote.
Abrams concluded, “It appears that all present have
at least one common goal: making an Israeli strike harder.”
Minister Ehud Barak emphasized on Tuesday that even while nuclear negotiations
are underway, Israeli military action against Iran remains an
Speaking to Army Radio, Barak voiced strong doubts whether the
talks, that began in Istanbul on Saturday, would succeed.
“It does not
look to me as if it is going to happen – not now, in the wake of Istanbul, and
not... after the [talks in Baghdad next month].”
Barak is due to meet US
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Washington on Thursday amid speculation that
Israel has promised its main ally that it will refrain from attacking Iran while
the talks continue.
“We are not committing to anything,” Barak said, when
asked whether any such pledge had been made. “There is not, there has not been,
there should not be and there cannot be [such a promise].”
Barak has said
that Iran could soon enter a “zone of immunity” against Israeli attack as it
puts its nuclear installations deep underground, comments that raised
international concern that a strike could be nearing.
In the interview,
he reiterated Israeli fears that the negotiations could drag on and waste what
he described as “precious time.”
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