France favors an interim agreement with Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, French President Francois Hollande said Sunday in Israel, but such an agreement would only be signed if Tehran would abandon its ambition to acquire a nuclear weapon.
Speaking at a joint press conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Hollande said that as long as Iran does not prove it has taken serious steps toward curbing its nuclear program, sanctions would not be relieved.
“Words are not deeds,” the French president stated. “We’re against proliferation, and in Iran there is a will to enrich uranium to weapons-grade level.”
Hollande went on to lay out four points that his country deemed essential for the signing of an interim agreement. France, Hollande said, would demand that all Iranian nuclear facilities be put under international control immediately, that enrichment of uranium to 20 percent be suspended, that existing uranium stockpiles be reduced, and that construction at the Arak heavy water facility be immediately halted.
“These are essential points that we require for an agreement,” he said. “France requires a serious, stable agreement, verifiable, with all guarantees, and we will stand strong in the face of pressure.”
Hollande added that an Iran free of nuclear arms was essential not only to the security of Israel, but to the safety of other nations throughout the region as well.
Netanyahu, standing alongside Hollande, said that an agreement with Iran, as it was reportedly presented during the recent round of talks between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic, would not deter Tehran from enriching uranium to weapons-grade level.
“It is clear that this agreement is good only for Iran, and bad for the world,” the prime minister said. “The choice today is not between a bad deal or war,” he stressed; on the contrary, he asserted, with each passing day Iran is under economic pressure that grows and grows.
“With patience and determination, you can get a good deal,” Netanyahu told Hollande. “This means maintaining pressure and increasing it, achieving a deal that would peacefully dismantle Iran’s military nuclear program, and would cause them to dismantle the centrifuges and plutonium-production heavy water reactor.”
Earlier, during a visit to Yad Vashem with Hollande, Netanyahu invoked the memory of the Holocaust, saying — in a thinly veiled allusion to Iran — that it was his obligation to prevent it from happening again.
“When someone says they are out to destroy you, we have learned in our Jewish history to take them seriously,” he said. ”It is my duty to prevent anyone from credibly threatening or executing another holocaust against the Jewish people. This is my obligation, but I also believe it’s our common obligation for the sake of mankind, for the sake of our common future.”
Netanyahu has been outspoken in his opposition to a potential deal in which the international community would ease some sanctions on Iran in exchange for some curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
In last week’s talks in Geneva between Iran and the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany — the so-called P5+1 — Paris’s tough position on Iran was said to have prevented the global powers from signing an interim agreement with Tehran, one that would have included limited sanctions relief in return for a partial freeze of the country’s nuclear program.
France apparently blocked what its foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, called “a sucker’s deal,” although US Secretary of State John Kerry later said it was the Iranians who had chosen not to sign the accord last Saturday. US officials say a deal on the terms presented at Geneva could be signed when the talks resume on Wednesday.
According to a report in the Israel daily Maariv Sunday, Israeli officials have come to terms with the fact that a partial deal with Iran will be signed as early as this month. However, the officials said two clauses favorable to Israel’s stance can be added, namely demanding that the Arak heavy water reactor be shut and that uranium enriched to over 20% be converted into fuel rods.
When Hollande landed Sunday for a high-profile visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, accompanied by his companion Valerie Trierweiler, he was welcomed by an honor guard at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv. With trumpets playing in the background, a line of politicians, religious leaders and other dignitaries greeted the French leader.
“You, Mr. President, display an aggressive stance against Syria and also against Iran’s unceasing efforts to arm itself with a nuclear weapon,” Netanyahu said, addressing Hollande on the tarmac, in an allusion to reports that France had scuppered the proposed deal with Iran.
“Vive la France, vive l’Israel, vive l’amitie entre la France et l’Israel,” he said. Hollande, speaking in Hebrew, assured Netanyahu that he would “always remain a friend of Israel.”
Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.