Barak: Coordinate foreign policy on Iran with US

Defense minister tells Blair talks must be limited in time; Schalit asks ME envoy to pressure Hamas.

Barak Blair 248.88 (photo credit: Ministry of Defense )
Barak Blair 248.88
(photo credit: Ministry of Defense )
During a meeting with the Quartet's Middle East envoy Tony Blair in Tel Aviv on Thursday afternoon, Defense Minister Ehud Barak stressed the importance of coordinating foreign policy regarding Iran. "The State of Israel must reach a strategic understanding with the US regarding the nature of the Iranian military nuclear program," said Barak. The defense minister noted that "even if [the US] chooses diplomacy as the means to bring the nuclear program to a halt, the talks must be limited in time. If the talks do not yield results harsh sanctions must be imposed. "A nuclear Iran will pose a threat not only to Israel but to the area and to the entire world. Israel is not ruling out any options, and recommends that other countries do likewise," Barak told Blair. During the meeting, Barak and Blair discussed efforts by Egyptian security forces along the border to stop smuggling into the Gaza Strip. Barak went on to present Blair with the list of restrictions Israel plans to ease in the coming days in an effort to bolster Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of a possible prisoner swap with Hamas. The IDF has announced a series of goodwill gestures in the West Bank it will make aimed at strengthening PA security forces. At least one main dirt roadblock near Hebron will be lifted allowing easier access in the area. A second dirt roadblock near Ramallah was planned to be lifted but will not for the time being due an increase in shooting attacks in the area. Last month, an Israeli was seriously wounded in a drive-by shooting near Ramallah. In related news, Blair met with the father of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, Noam, in Jerusalem earlier on Thursday. Schalit requested that the Quartet envoy pressure Hamas to allow Red Cross representatives to visit his son, who has been held captive by the group for almost three years. The captive soldier's father stressed that Hamas is consistently violating international humanitarian law. Following the meeting, Schalit told reporters that there was now "a window of opportunity to release Gilad." Schalit explained that "The weeks following the election and before a new government is established present an opportunity, which we believe will not present itself again, to reach a deal and release my son." Blair promised that he would continue in efforts to reach an agreement between Hamas and Israel that would bring to Schalit's release, Army Radio reported.