Israel will not be limited by an agreement between world powers and Iran at any time, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday.
“The agreement does not obligate us, and the date in another two-and-a-half years that allows Iran to install countless centrifuges certainly does not obligate us,” Bennett said in a speech at Mossad headquarters.
According to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the revival of which world powers and Iran have been negotiating in Vienna, much of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and the sanctions on the Islamic Republic would be lifted in 2025. The easing of sanctions is known as the “sunset clause.”
“For us, there is no such thing as ‘sunset,’” Bennett said. “The sun will never set on the security of Israel and the good of its citizens.”
Referring to the war in Ukraine, Bennett noted that “When the world turns dark and dangerous, almost overnight, there is a growing recognition in all of us of the importance of strength. The great, monumental mission on the shoulders [of the Mossad] is to prevent a nuclear Iran. It is a mission you have been grappling with for many years, but it looks like we are nearing the moment of truth.”
Bennett’s remarks came in what negotiators have said are the final stages of the talks to revive the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal.
Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani returned to the talks after consultations in Tehran with more demands.
“Iran’s stance after Bagheri’s trip to Tehran has become even more uncompromising,” a source in the talks told Reuters.
Iran has pushed for the International Atomic Energy Agency to close its probe into military dimensions of its nuclear program as part of the renewed JCPOA, even though that had been a separate deal with the IAEA in 2015 and not with the other countries in the negotiations.
Tehran also demanded the removal of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the US list of foreign terrorist organizations and all sanctions against them, as well as to renegotiate some issues that the other delegations thought were settled.
Meanwhile, Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted that the “US has already ‘walked away’ from JCPOA. We must make sure it won’t happen again. Everyone has its own plan B, though US’[s] has proven hollow. Blusters and bluffs have [not and] will not work. Decisions do. A deal is at hand, if WH makes its mind. Iran is willing, but will not wait forever.”
US State Department Spokesman Ned Price said the Americans “are prepared to walk away if Iran displays an intransigence to making progress. Let me be clear that walking away won’t mean leaving the status quo,” referring to Iran’s advanced stage in enriching uranium. “We have talked about the alternatives, at least in general terms – alternatives that we have developed and we are prepared to pursue together with our allies and partners if the Iranians are unwilling to engage in good faith in a constructive way on the remaining outstanding issues.”
Price said he expects clarity on where the talks are going “in the coming days, given that we are at this decisive, consequential moment, knowing that Tehran’s nuclear advancements will soon render the nonproliferation benefits that the JCPOA conveyed essentially meaningless before too long.”
Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Russian delegation, said at the end of talks on Monday that an agreement is “very close, but additional efforts need to be taken in the days to come. Unfortunately, we will not complete negotiations today. Completion will fall on the beginning of March, very soon.”
The UK delegation’s negotiator, Stephanie Al-Qaq, continued to use the hashtag “#EndgameViennaTalks,” which she adopted last week, and said that “work continues to try and close final issues.”