US President Donald Trump’s top national security adviser urged Iran on Tuesday to step back from its “malign behavior” and enter into “real negotiations” over its nuclear weapons program, ballistic missile development, and backing for international terror groups.
Speaking at a summit meeting between Israel’s, Russia’s and America’s national security advisers in Jerusalem, John Bolton slammed Iran as the “source of belligerence and aggression” in the Middle East.
He accused Tehran of supporting violence throughout the region — from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Assad regime in Syria, as well as Shiite militias in Iraq, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and terror attacks on US forces in Afghanistan — and of threatening Middle Eastern oil supplies.
He also charged that the Islamic Republic was still pursuing nuclear weapons, saying, “There’s simply no evidence that Iran has made the strategic decision to renounce nuclear weapons and open realistic discussions to demonstrate that decision.
“In just a few days,” he noted, “Iran has threatened to exceed the key limits imposed by the inadequate 2015 Iran nuclear deal, exposing once again the fatal deficiencies of that failed agreement.”
He said Trump, while imposing “significant new sanctions” on Iranian leaders on Monday, “has held the door open to real negotiations to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program, its pursuit of ballistic missile delivery systems, its support for international terrorism, and its other malign behavior worldwide.
“All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door,” he said.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said that new US sanctions against senior Iranian officials including top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif showed Washington was “lying” about offering to negotiate.
A ‘historic’ gathering in Jerusalem
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking to the three countries’ delegations, which met at Jerusalem’s Orient Hotel, said the “historic” gathering signaled the sides’ “common objective” of ensuring the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria.
Israel has long sought Russian backing for its demand that Iranian forces leave Syria upon the conclusion of the country’s civil war.
“There’s a wider basis for cooperation between the three of us than many believe…. We have a common objective: that no foreign forces that arrived in Syria after 2011 remain in Syria. We think there are also ways to achieve this common goal. We look forward to discussing concrete ways to achieve this goal,” he said.
Sounding a different tone on Iran, the Russian national security adviser, Nikolia Patrushev, insisted that Tehran was aiding in the battle against Islamist terrorists in Syria. “We work together and listen to each other. We’re aware of Israel’s concerns and hope the threats will be lifted,” he said.
The meeting between the three nations’ national security advisers — Bolton, Patrushev, and Israel’s Meir Ben-Shabbat — was the first-ever such trilateral summit.
Iran’s efforts to entrench itself militarily in Syria and the escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington were expected to top the agenda.
On Monday, Netanyahu told Patrushev that Israel would do “anything it takes” to ensure Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons.
In a statement to reporters Monday, Patrushev said the summit would focus on “the regional situation, especially Syria,” and place special emphasis on Israel’s security concerns.
“We pay special attention to ensuring Israel’s security,” he said, calling it “a special interest of ours because here in Israel live a little less than about two million of our countrymen. Israel supports us in several channels, including at the UN. The prime minister [Netanyahu] has already said that we share the same views on the issue of the struggle against falsifying the history of World War II.”
Among the issues that will be discussed with Bolton, Patrushev added, were “several ideas about how to reach peace in your region. And once we reach agreement, we should add other states in the region to this format.”
Earlier Monday, during a meeting of the cabinet, Netanyahu called the trilateral gathering “an unprecedented summit between two great powers, the United States and Russia, and Israel — here in Israel.
“The very fact that this summit is happening here is more evidence of the special standing of Israel among the nations of the world at this time,” he said.
Agencies contributed to this report.