German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to urge German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday not to accept any deal with Iran that would allow it to become a nuclear threshold state.
Germany is one of six world powers, known as the P5+1, that are looking to finalize a deal with Iran that would halt its nuclear program. The other countries are the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom.
Steinmeier, who visited the Palestinian territories on Saturday, is scheduled to be in Jerusalem on Sunday to meet with Netanyahu and, separately, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
On Tuesday, Steinmeier is to travel to Moscow, where his talks are expected to touch on Iran.
In Australia for a meeting of the G20 major and developing economies on Saturday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters six world powers and Iran had never been so close to an agreement and that it could be reached by a November 24 deadline.
“From [November] 18 to 24 there is enough time for such decisions to be taken,” he said. “But there is no guarantee that these decisions will be taken in those capitals where there are the biggest problems with current solutions, I mean Washington and Tehran.”
The six powers want to ensure Iran’s nuclear program does not enable it to build nuclear weapons, though Iran says its nuclear work is for civil needs.
Ryabkov said Moscow would continue to cooperate with Washington on Iran, as well as Syria, despite a rift in ties hours after US President Barack Obama said Moscow’s actions in Ukraine were a threat to the world.
“Talks on Iran and Syria are not a tribute to fashion or momentary interests and even less so are an intention to ‘please’ the United States,” he said. “This cooperation meets our interest and helps to normalize the global situation, and we will keep on doing it. If it had been for other reasons, we would have folded this activity long ago.”
Some officials, including from Russia, have expressed doubts a deal can be reached in the time frame.
Steinmeier’s spokesman Martin Schaefer told a government news conference he did not rule out pushing the deadline back again.
“At the end of the day all participants, first and foremost Tehran, need to explain why delaying the decisions that need to be reached in Tehran will increase the chances of getting a good negotiating result,” he said. “It’s clear that if we don’t have a solution by November 24 the international pressure from many sides will increase again and it is questionable whether the chances of an agreement will improve.”
Israel has said any deal must demand that Iran dismantle any facility that enriches uranium and that if those facilities remain in place, Iran quickly could become a nuclear threshold state.
Last week, Netanyahu said a stiff sanctions regime could be used to force Iran to dismantle those facilities. It was a question of a bad deal or failure, he said, because the option of sanctions exists should negotiations not produce a deal that rids Iran of its nuclear military capacity.
Netanyahu discussed Iran’s nuclear program with US Secretary of State John Kerry when he met with him in Jordan on Thursday night.
“The secretary made it clear that our position has not changed and that we are working to close off all possible pathways to a nuclear weapon for Iran in order to ensure the peace and security of the international community, including Israel,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday. “We will continue to keep all of our friends and allies informed of what we are going to be doing in the days ahead.”
On Thursday night, Kerry said, “Our No. 1 priority on Iran is making sure that they don’t get a nuclear weapon,” adding that “The question now is whether Iran will make the choices required to close the final gaps and provide assurances that they can’t develop and won’t develop a nuclear weapon.”
Kerry continued, “Iranian leaders have said repeatedly and unambiguously that they have no intention of building a nuclear weapon. But actions have to be taken to back up those words and time is running short. The international community’s concerns are legitimate and no agreement can be reached without addressing those concerns.”Reuters contributed to this report.