Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in Tehran.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran should not be included in any coalition that is formed to fight Islamic State, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman warned on Friday, during a joint press conference with visiting EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
He spoke one day after The Wall Street Journal reported that US President Barack Obama sent Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei a letter suggesting cooperation in the fight against Islamic State.
“This kind of deal, this linkage between their nuclear program and their participation in a coalition against ISIS [Islamic State], it is a vision that we are completely against,” Liberman said. “This approach is a mistake.”
“Iran is completely unacceptable as a partner for any coalition,” said Liberman, stating that this was true even when fighting extremist forces in Syria and Iraq.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday that there was no link between talks on Iran’s nuclear program and other issues in the Middle East. He spoke on the sideline of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing.
“No one to my knowledge has confirmed or denied whether or not there is a letter or was a letter, and I’m not going to comment on what a president of the United States and the leader of another country may or may not communicate – may or may not communicate privately,” Kerry said. “I will tell you this though, no conversation, no agreement, no exchange, nothing, has created any kind of deal or agreement with respect to any of the events that are at stake in the Middle East.
“There is no linkage whatsoever of the nuclear discussions with any other issue, and I want to make that absolutely clear. The nuclear negotiations are on their own, they are standing separate from anything else, and no discussion has ever taken place about linking one thing to another, one involvement with another, that I am aware of – and I’m confident I’m aware of what the president has been doing and saying with respect to this issue,” Kerry said.
The US in the past rejected a proposal floated by Iranian officials in which Tehran would cooperate in the fight against Islamic State forces in exchange for flexibility on its nuclear program.
The US and five world powers are working with Tehran on an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said on Saturday that both sides are resolved to reach a deal by a self-imposed November 24 deadline.
”No middle solutions exist and all our thoughts are focused on how to reach a settlement,” Araghchi, Iran’s chief negotiator, told the state news agency IRNA.
“No one wants to return to the way things were before the Geneva Agreement. That would be too risky a scenario,” he said, referring to the preliminary accord reached a year ago under which Iran has curbed some sensitive nuclear activity in exchange for limited relief from international sanctions.
“Both sides are aware of this, which is why I think a deal is within reach. We are serious and I can see the same resolve on the other side,” Araghchi was quoted by IRNA as saying.
The stickiest unresolved issues are Iran’s overall uranium enrichment capacity, the length of any long-term agreement and the pace at which international sanctions would be phased out, according to Western diplomats involved in the negotiations.
Kerry said on Wednesday the negotiations would get more difficult if the November 24 deadline were missed, and the powers were not – for now – weighing any extension to the talks.
His remarks seemed aimed in part at raising the pressure on Tehran to agree to the deal, which would include tougher UN inspections to verify Iran is complying with its provisions.
Iran says it is enriching uranium solely for a future network of civilian nuclear power stations and to yield isotopes for medical treatments.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when he met with Mogherini in Jerusalem on Friday, spoke about Iran.
He warned Western powers, including the EU, not to accept any deal in which Iran would remain a nuclear threshold state.
“That would be a big mistake. If Iran is left with residual capacity to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb, ultimately this will destabilize the world,” Netanyahu said.
“Better no deal than a bad deal that leaves Iran with a capacity to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb.”
Reuters contributed to this report.