Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the European Union Tuesday for tightening sanctions against Iran a day earlier, but added that restrictions have so far done little to get the regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Speaking to the ambassadors of EU member states in Israel, Netanyahu lauded the union for the “tough sanctions” against what he called the “biggest threat to peace in our time.”
“These sanctions are hitting the Iranian economy hard, [but] they haven’t yet rolled back the Iranian program,” he told the diplomats at the King David hotel in Jerusalem. “We’ll know that they’re achieving their goal when the centrifuges stop spinning and when the Iranian nuclear program is rolled back.”
On Monday, EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg voted to substantially increase sanctions against Tehran, including banning imports of Iranian natural gas and other restrictions on the country’s infrastructure development.
“Iran’s nuclear program is a concern not only to Israel but also to the region and the wider international community,” the EU’s ambassador to Israel, Andrew Standley, told reporters on Tuesday at the meeting.
‘We’re not speculating about other options right now. But they are not excluded either’
The Netherlands’ ambassador to Israel, Caspar Veldkamp, had said earlier that the additional sanctions showed the 27 member states’ determination to exert “full pressure” on Iran. “It is not acceptable that Iran still does not meet its international obligations. Until the moment that they do, we will have to continue to increase the pressure. As far as the Netherlands is concerned, we’re not speculating about other options right now. But they are not excluded either.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman also lauded the EU for stepping up the sanctions against Iran. “This is a resolute and important step, worthy of significant appreciation, especially as it has been in a difficult economic period,” he wrote Tuesday in a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
In the letter, Liberman acknowledges that “there have been and remain certain disagreements on various subjects” between the EU and Israel, referring specifically to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israeli expansion of West Bank settlements. “Therefore I find it fitting to provide public expression to my gratitude and to our appreciation for your determination in preventing Iran’s nuclear proliferation plans.”
The West suspects Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, while Tehran maintains its nuclear program is intended solely for civilian purposes.
Western nations have pledged to prevent the regime from acquiring nuclear weapons but have so far abstained from concrete threats, saying instead that “all options are on the table” to achieve their goal.
Israel believes time for sanctions and talks is running out and has lobbied for military action against the nuclear program.
During Netanyahu’s annual meeting with the envoys of the EU states, he also congratulated the union on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize this year.
“Would that we could replicate in the Middle East what was achieved in Europe. That is, decades of stability and peace and tranquility,” he said. “That is our goal and we’ll discuss how we can advance that goal, that all Israelis share fervently.”