Yuval Steinitz 370.
(photo credit: Hadas Parush)
The Iranians are using talks with the world powers to “pave their way to a nuclear bomb,” International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz said Saturday, at the conclusion of yet another unsuccessful round of talks between Iran and six world powers.
Steinitz, responsible inside the government for dealing with the international campaign against Iran, said the failure of the talks was “predictable.”
“Israel has already warned that the Iranians are exploiting the talks in order to play for time while making additional progress in enriching uranium for an atomic bomb,” he said. “Israel believes that without a significant and tangible threat, including a short timetable, it is clear that achieving the dismantling of the nuclear project will not be possible.”
Steinitz added that the time has come for the world to take a “more assertive stand and make it unequivocally clear to the Iranians that the negotiations games have run their course.”
His comments came as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Iran and the P5+1 – the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany – remained far apart after ending two days of intensive talks on Tehran’s nuclear program in Almaty.
Underlining the lack of substantial progress during the meeting in the Kazakh city, no new negotiations between the two sides appeared to have been scheduled.
“Over two days of talks, we had long and intensive discussions on the issues addressed in our confidencebuilding proposal,” Ashton said at a press conference. “It became clear that our positions remain far apart.”
Russia’s negotiator, however, sounded more upbeat, saying the talks were “definitely a step forward” although no compromise had been reached, Interfax news agency reported,without giving details.
With all sides aware that a breakdown in diplomacy could shunt the protracted stalemate a step closer to war, no one in Almaty was talking about abandoning diplomatic efforts.
Ashton said that for the first time there had been a “real back and forth between us when we were able to discuss details, to pose questions, and to get answers directly... To that extent, that has been a very important element.”
But, she added: “What matters in the end is substance.
We know what we want to achieve and the challenge is to get real engagement so we can move forward with this, and that’s the ambition.”
With a presidential election due for Iran in June, scope for a breakthrough was slim in Almaty, when Iran declined to accept or reject an offer of modest relief from economic sanctions in exchange for curbing its most sensitive nuclear activity.
Without substantial progress in the coming months, Western governments are likely to increase economic sanctions on Iran.
The talks were held against a backdrop of flaring tension between the big powers and North Korea, which like Iran is defying international demands to curb its nuclear program.