Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the world to deny Iran the ability to produce nuclear weapons Thursday, while meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
With China and other P5+1 nations having negotiated an interim deal with Iran last month that would partially curb Iran’s rogue nuclear program, a deal Netanyahu has slammed as a “historic mistake,” the prime minister Wednesday pointedly emphasized the need for the whole world to get behind efforts to stymie Iran’s nuclear program.
“We believe that for the peace of the world, for the peace of the coming years and decades, Iran must be denied the capability – I stress the word – the capability to develop nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “It must fully comply with UN Security Council resolutions. It must end all enrichment, dismantle its centrifuges, eliminate all stockpiles of enriched uranium and dismantle its heavy water reactor in Arak so that it will not be able to produce plutonium. I think that this is something that the international community in its entirety must stand firm on.”
China, a major customer of Iranian oil, has been a staunch backer of Iran and has resisted efforts to impose heavier sanctions on Tehran, receiving waivers from the US to continue dealing with the Islamic Republic.
The joint press conference between Netanyahu and Wang held Wednesday in Jerusalem highlighted a visit aimed at deepening diplomatic ties between the two countries and increasing trade relations.
Netanyahu also emphasized the various potential trade collaborations between China and Israel, including in hi-tech, irrigation, agriculture, green energy, and health services.
Netanyahu has made relations with China a priority. Last May, he led a large delegation to China, meeting with top political and business officials and agreeing with his counterparts to establish a “task force” to improve trade ties.
In broad terms, Israel is a tiny trade partner for China. Bilateral trade is expected to be about $8 billion this year, compared to $6.7 billion in 2010, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
But China is interested in many technologies where Israel is considered a world leader, such as water recycling, desalination, agriculture and health and medicine, providing great potential for Israeli companies.
“Our strengths I believe complement one another,” Netanyahu said at the joint press conference. “China has massive industrial and global reach. Israel has expertise in every area of high technology. And I think the combination could be very very beneficial to China and of course to Israel.”
“Our two economies are highly complementary, and the mutually beneficial cooperation between us enjoys a very bright future,” Wang added.
Netanyahu has reportedly sought to keep the focus of the visit on trade relations, while the Chinese are seeking a greater diplomatic role in the region, especially concerning Israeli Palestinians peace talks.
Wang, who had met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas earlier in the day, dedicated much of his remarks to the negotiations, and expressed his hope that the two sides would reach an agreement to ensure stability in the region. The international community is following the peace talks intently, he said.
In a conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday, Wang outlined his position regarding the talks.
“China believes that under the current situation, both Palestine and Israel should seize the opportunity, adhere to the path of peace talks, take more practical measures, build up and accumulate mutual trust, and try hard to make substantial progress in peace talks as soon as possible,” he said.
Chinese officials previously brokered a meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas in Beijing last May.
Netanyahu came under fire early Wednesday for allegedly capitulating to pressure from Chinese authorities and barring a key witness from testifying in a terror victim’s family litigation against the Bank of China. The family of Daniel Wultz, who was murdered in a terror attack in 2006, was suing the Bank of China for allowing transactions of funds that ultimately sponsored terrorism.
Neither man mentioned the Bank of China case, which has emerged as a sticky issue in relations. The bank denies any wrongdoing and is fighting the case.
Netanyahu’s office has maintained that allowing the official to testify would harm regional security.
The Associated Press contributed to this report