Senior official involved in Baghdad talks says U.S. is pressuring Iran because it perceives it as a real threat to world security, not because of Israeli pressure.
“There are no gaps between the U.S. and Israel in anything related to talks between Iran and the six world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program,” a U.S. official told journalists during a briefing in Tel Aviv.
The U.S. official, who is intimately acquainted with the P5 + 1 talks which took place in Baghdad last week, asked to remain anonymous owing to the sensitive nature of the issue.
According to the official, the U.S. government does not feel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to pressure it over negotiations with Iran.
“We are the ones who are pressuring ourselves because we see a nuclear Iran as a real danger to global security, and not because of Israel, ” the U.S. official said.
“Even if we do not have the patience, we need to give diplomacy a chance before military action…it is still not too late, and I think that Israel also doesn’t think it’s too late,” the official added.
On Friday, the head of the U.S. negotiation team, undersecretary of state for political affairs Wendy Sherman, arrived in Israel along with officials from the White House National Security Council working on the Iran nuclear issue – Gary Seymour and Puneet Talwar.
The American team had a three-hour meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with National Security advisor Yaakov Amidror, and a number of other senior Israeli officials who deal with the Iran issue, in order to update them on the talks in Baghdad.
According to the U.S. official, the Israeli government was the first to be updated by them on what happened in Baghdad after the talks were over. “We updated the Israelis in detail before we updated our own government,” the official said.
“This shows how much trust and security we have in our ties with Israel.”
Sherman and the rest of the American officials were meant to carry out a similar visit to update the Saudi Arabian leadership but, owing to a lack of time, Sherman updated the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani, on the Baghdad talks over the phone.
The U.S. delegation emphasized to Israeli officials that over the course of the talks the head of the Iranian delegation Saeed Jalili requested that the six world powers – the U.S., Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain – recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium on its own territory, but that the powers refused the Iranian request.
“In the Baghdad talks there were many divisions, but we reached some common ground over the need to focus first on uranium enrichment at a level of 20 percent, and we agreed that the nuclear issue is at the center of the talks,” the U.S. official said.
“We reached a broad enough understanding in order to carry out a further, although smaller, meeting in order to reach an agreement with Iran. We will review what happened in Baghdad and we will see how we can progress at the Moscow talks on June 18.”
Sherman and the U.S. team also stressed in their meetings in Israel that there is no intention to annul the sanctions that have already been imposed on Iran, with an emphasis on the EU oil embargo that will go into effect on June 1.
“There will be more sanctions against Iran if it does not give an answer to the concerns of the international community,” the U.S. official said.
In its talks with Israel, the U.S. delegation underlined that it is still not clear whether or not the Iranians are interested in reaching a deal. “This is the beginning, and we did not expect that there would be an agreement in Baghdad, we will see if we will close the gaps in talks in Moscow,” the U.S. official said.
By Barak Ravid