Iran’s deputy FM to Israel Radio: Nuclear deal can ‘open new horizons’ with all nations
In rare comments to Israeli reporter, Abbas Araqchi also says ‘yes’ when asked if Israel could live in peace with any agreement reached between world powers and Iran
Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel.
Israel would be able to live in peace with any deal reached by Iran and world powers, and the agreement would “open new horizons” with all nations, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said to Israel Radio on Wednesday.
“Any agreement reached will open new horizons in [our] relations with all states,” Araqchi told Israel Radio reporter Gideon Kutz. Araqchi also responded with a “Yes” when Kutz asked him whether Israel would be able to live in peace with whatever deal would be reached between Western powers and the Islamic Republic.
Kutz told The Times of Israel by phone from Geneva that he was wearing an Israel Radio press badge when he interviewed the Iranian official, and that “the nature of my questions” made his identity as an Israeli journalist obvious to Araqchi. If so, Araqchi’s readiness to answer questions from an Israeli journalist is highly unusual; Iranian officials routinely avoid all open contact with the Israeli media.
Araqchi said Iran and the P5+1 nations were striving to arrive at an agreement about the objectives of the negotiations by the end of Wednesday’s round of talks.
Another Iranian official in Geneva also spoke to an Israeli journalist, Channel 2’s Arad Nir. Nir said Wednesday afternoon that he introduced himself as an Israeli reporter and asked the official, whom he didn’t name, whether Iran was likely to change its attitude to Israel. “It doesn’t depend on me,” the official said. That answer wasn’t particularly informative, said Nir, but the fact that the Iranian responded at all to an Israeli reporter was new. “In the past, they’d look right through me,” Nir said.
The next round of negotiations between the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, known collectively as the P5+1, and Iran are set to take place next month; it is not clear whether they would involve top ranking officials.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Islamic Republic expressed possible willingness to accept snap inspections of its nuclear sites by international officials, the AFP news agency reported.
The P5+1 sat down with Iran Wednesday for the second day of nuclear talks in Geneva, Switzerland, to negotiate a diplomatic resolution of the standoff over Tehran’s unsanctioned nuclear program.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said at a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday that Israel is following the talks with “hope and concern.”
“The concern is that Geneva 2013 will turn into Munich 1938,” he said. “History shows that the whole world celebrated and then World War II broke out.”
Responding to a question about whether Tehran’s proposal to the world powers included adding a protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty mandating unannounced inspections of Iranian nuclear sites, Iran’s lead negotiator, Araqchi, was quoted by the semi-official Iranian news agency IRNA as saying, “None of these issues exist in the first step, but they are part of our last step.”
However, Araqchi was cited on Tuesday by IRNA as saying the additional protocol “does not exist” in the offer.
Araqchi said negotiations with world powers “were held in a highly positive atmosphere and the two sides were serious when speaking of their issues,” Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported.
Last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran would open its nuclear facilities to international inspectors as part of broad negotiations with the United States that could eventually restore diplomatic relations between the decades-long adversaries.
US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki was reluctant to call the proposal a breakthrough, saying that discussions were “ongoing” and therefore it would be premature to call it a “breakthrough at this stage,” according to AFP.
“However, it certainly is positive that there was enough information to have technical discussions,” she added.
The US and other Western powers have imposed crippling sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. In recent months, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has reached out to the West, engaging in direct communication with the US for the first time.
The talks in Geneva are being seen as a key test of Iran’s overtures to the West. The P5+1 nations are eager to see whether Iran’s new style since Rouhani’s election will translate into progress on dispelling concerns over Tehran developing nuclear weapons.
Israel has repeatedly warned that Iran is seeking to dupe the West, get sanctions lifted, and retain its nuclear weapons program. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that Iran be stripped of its entire uranium enrichment capacity as part of any arrangement under which sanctions could be eased.
The Associated Press and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.