Jerusalem says Solana could trump ElBaradei

Officials: EU emissary understands Israeli position on Iran sanctions; Solana: Peace "doable" in 2008

mofaz solana 224 88 (photo credit: GPO)
mofaz solana 224 88
(photo credit: GPO)
Two weeks before he is due to deliver a report on the Iranian nuclear program to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana remained tight-lipped on Wednesday on what his recommendations would be. Speaking at a joint news conference in Jerusalem after talks with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Solana said he would have another meeting with the Iranians before the end of the month, and he would not reveal his recommendations before he reported to the six UN ambassadors. But officials in Jerusalem, speaking after Wednesday's meetings, said that Solana understood the Israeli position on Iran. Jerusalem believes that Solana's report will be much closer to the Israeli position than the separate report being drawn up by International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei. The conclusions of both men will be crucial in deciding whether or not the UN endorses tougher sanctions against Iran. According to Israeli officials, the Israeli and European positions on how to stop Iran's nuclear drive are essentially in sync - particularly the positions of the E3 states that have been engaging with Teheran - Germany, France and Britain. Livni reiterated Israel's position that now is the time for a third package of sanctions. "I hope that not only the international community, but also the private sector, understand that this is about the future of the world and not only an Israeli problem," Livni said. Earlier, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz told Solana that Jerusalem recognized the importance of his report - particularly because Russia and China were looking for an excuse to avoid further sanctions. "I hope the European Union will be part of the united front against Iranian nuclear progress, and will work to encourage sanctions," Mofaz said. "The Iranian strategy is an attempt to buy time, while the nuclear program moves forward rapidly." During his talks with Israeli leaders, Solana made it clear that the EU was fully behind Annapolis and the ensuing talks, and would help in every way possible. He expressed confidence that progress could be achieved during 2008. "I think to find an agreement by the end of 2008 could be doable, it could be feasible. I don't guarantee that it can be done, but I think it's possible," Solana said. Livni played down the importance of the joint statement of principles that is due to be presented by Israel and the Palestinians, stressing that what comes afterward is what matters. "Basically the statement will refer to Annapolis and the day after," Livni said. "The real success of Annapolis is launching real negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on all the outstanding issues - the most important negotiations in the last seven years." Livni confirmed that Israel would undertake a freeze on settlement activity, explaining that this fell under the Israeli commitments according to the first phase of the road map peace plan. However, officials in Jerusalem refused to provide details on what settlements and building projects will be affected under the freeze. Both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in their discussions with Solana, stressed the importance of the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. Barak called on Europe and the international community to support "Israel's basic demand that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state." The EU foreign policy chief stressed the importance of the participation of as many moderate Arab states as possible in the Annapolis gathering. Three members of the Israeli team negotiating with the Palestinians on a joint statement of principles are in Washington for two days of talks to coordinate ahead of Annapolis. The prime minister's political advisor, Shalom Turgeman, Olmert's bureau chief, Yoram Turbowicz, and Foreign Ministry Director-General Aharon Abramovitch are holding talks with US Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams and Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch. •