US President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office in this December 17, 2014 White House handout photo.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama briefed Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu by phone on Monday about "recent developments" in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, the White House said.
In the phone call, Obama reiterated America's months-old position entering negotiations: "The United States is focused on reaching a comprehensive deal with Iran that prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," the White House said in a statement, "and verifiably assures the international community of the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program."
The readout also highlights the importance of "continuing close cooperation with Israel" on Iran policy as negotiations enter a critical stage. While two deadlines for a comprehensive nuclear accord were scrapped last year, diplomats are working to forge a political agreement by the end of March.
Obama and Netanyahu also discussed the Palestinian Authority's efforts to join the International Criminal Court, condemned by the US and Israel alike this month.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute to accede to the court on December 31
"The Palestinian Authority does not yet constitute a state and is therefore not eligible to accede to the Rome Statute," Obama told Netanyahu, reiterating the US position as outlined last week
. "The United States does not believe Palestinian accession to the ICC is a constructive way forward."
Fallout from Abbas' move has been swift: Netanyahu's government halted the transfer
of tax revenues, and Congress has warned to cut its nearly $400 billion in aid to the PA should it proceed.
Obama "encourages both sides to seek ways to deescalate tensions," he noted in the phone call.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post
whether the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris was a topic of the call, one White House official said "the attacks were briefly discussed."
The State Department joined France in calling that assault
"anti-Semitic" over the weekend.