Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a marathon meeting Wednesday evening in Rome, after discussing peace talks and the Iranian nuclear issue.
Before they sat down, Kerry said Iran would have to prove to the world that its nuclear program was not military, seeking to allay Israeli fears ahead of the meeting.
“We will need to know that actions are being taken, which make it clear, undeniably clear, fail-safe to the world, that whatever program is pursued is indeed a peaceful program,” Kerry told reporters in a brief press statement at the start of the meeting, which was originally scheduled for seven hours.
“No deal is better than a bad deal,” he added, echoing a statement he made earlier this month.
He added that the US would “pursue a diplomatic initiative but with eyes wide open,” and said Iran would have to use the same standards as other states to prove its nuclear program is peaceful.
Netanyahu told America’s chief diplomat that ongoing negotiations with Iran should insist that Tehran end all enrichment on uranium, get rid of any fissile material and close water plants and underground bunkers that he said are only necessary to build a nuclear bomb.
“I think a partial deal that leaves Iran with these capabilities is a bad deal,” Netanyahu told Kerry.
“You wisely insisted there wouldn’t be a partial deal with Syria,” Netanyahu said. “You were right. If (Syrian President Bashar) Assad had said, ‘I’d like to keep 20 percent, 50 percent, or 80 percent of my chemical weapons capability,’ you would have refused — and correctly so.”
Still, Netanyahu predicted that “we’re very close” to striking a deal with Iran. “And I agree with you that the goal is to get it peacefully,” he said.
Israel is nervously watching the renewed nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers. Netanyahu has long demanded that the US not ease any of its harsh economic sanctions against Tehran until the Islamic republic dismantles its nuclear weapons program.
The meeting was planned for Kerry and Netanyahu to discuss recent talks between the group of six world powers and Iran regarding its nuclear program.
Diplomats have scheduled another meeting for early next month amid cautious optimism that they may reach a breakthrough.
A deal would reportedly involve allowing Iran to keep enriched uranium below 20 percent. Israel maintains that Tehran must not be allowed to enrich any uranium, saying even a small amount will allow it to break out toward a bomb.
Netanyahu arrived in Rome Tuesday and urged continued pressure on Iran in a meeting with his Italian counterpart Enrico Letta Tuesday night.
“Iran says it wants a deal in which it will have civilian nuclear energy, but that is not the real issue,” Netanyahu told Letta. “Many nations in Europe, North America, and Asia have nuclear energy without centrifuges or plutonium. The only reason Iran is demanding centrifuges and plutonium is to enable it to produce enough materials for a nuclear bomb. This is why the UN Security Council reached many resolutions, including one in 2010 that called for Iran to destroy the centrifuges and cease the production of plutonium.”
“If Iran retains these capabilities, it will be able to progress quickly toward the production of a bomb,” the prime minister continued. “It can move quickly from a low level of 3.5% enrichment straight to 90% without the intermediate level of 20%. We cannot let them do this. Our efforts toward peace can be severely harmed if Iran succeeds in it goals.”
“It will be tragic if it succeeds in avoiding the sanctions,” he said.