In Jerusalem, Austria’s ex-leader Kurz slams Iran for breaching nuclear deal
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In Jerusalem, Austria’s ex-leader Kurz slams Iran for breaching nuclear deal

Former and possibly future chancellor says Vienna will act with Europe ‘united and determinedly’ against Tehran’s nuclear ambitions

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Former Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz and PM Netanyahu meet in Jerusalem, July 10, 2019 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Former Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz and PM Netanyahu meet in Jerusalem, July 10, 2019 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Austria is worried about Iran’s intention to breach the nuclear deal and to dramatically increase uranium enrichment, the country’s former chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Wednesday during a short visit to Israel.

“I am very concerned about Iran’s statement to want to enrich more uranium. That is in clear contradiction to the Vienna Agreement,” he told Austrian reporters in a Jerusalem restaurant minutes after meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He was referring to the 2015 landmark pact between Tehran and six world powers, which was negotiated and signed in the Austrian capital and which has been unraveling since US President Donald Trump pulled out of it last year.

“This is something that we must not accept,” Kurtz said of the latest Iranian steps. “This is not only an issue for Israel, but also a security issue for us in Europe. We will act united and determinedly.”

Iran in recent weeks breached the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, both by increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium beyond the cap specified by the deal and by enriching above the 3.67 percent maximum stipulated by the pact.

Kurz, whose government fell earlier this year after a nn-confidence vote but who is widely expected the win snap elections in late September, tweeted a photo of his meeting with Netanyahu, with the headline: “The Iranian threats against Israel are absolutely unacceptable.”

“Israel’s security is a top priority for us and it is vital that Iran complies to all elements of the nuclear agreement,” he wrote.

In the tweet, he described his meeting with Netanyahu as “productive,” noting that in addition to Iran they discussed “border management measures [and] the prevention of illegal migration.”

In the press briefing, he said that he and the prime minister talked about migration for “a long time” and that Netanyahu believes waves of migrants have to be “stopped within Africa,” ideally before asylum seekers reach the Sahara Desert.

Kurz and Netanyahu also discussed the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group, the former chancellor said.

“We shared satisfaction over the fact that the fight against ISIS was won, but we also agreed that its ideology still exists, and that there’s an ongoing need to be vigilant regarding new groups that can be formed in the region and could be a threat not only for Israel but also for Austria and Europe,” he said.

Netanyahu welcomed Kurz to Jerusalem as a “tremendous friend of the State of Israel, a champion of fighting anti-Semitism, a great leader for Austria.”

The two leaders have met at least half a dozen times since Kurz became foreign minister in 2013.

Earlier on Wednesday, Kurz met with Austrian Holocaust survivors, as he has done during previous visits to Israel.

After becoming chancellor in late 2017 elections, Kurz and his People’s Party formed a coalition government with the far-right Freedom Party, which has its roots in Austria’s neo-Nazi scene. The Israeli government joined the local Jewish community in avoiding any contact with members of that party.

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