Netanyahu to tell Europeans clock ticking to fix Iran nuke deal

Netanyahu to tell Europeans clock ticking to fix Iran nuke deal

PM says he’ll challenge counterparts at Davos summit of world leaders to make more than ‘cosmetic’ changes to agreement

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his wife Sara Netanyahu, at Ben Gurion airport on January 23, 2018. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his wife Sara Netanyahu, at Ben Gurion airport on January 23, 2018. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he would tell skeptical European leaders that time is running out to alter the Iran nuclear deal, which US President Donald Trump has vowed he will rip up if it is not changed.

Speaking ahead of his departure to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Netanyahu said he would relay this message in meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Macron has been vocal in warning against abandoning the agreement and Merkel’s government has also continued to back it.

“I will tell them that in the coming weeks, they will have a last opportunity to try and introduce real – not cosmetic – changes in the dangerous nuclear agreement with Iran,” he said, ahead of his trip to the conference, which runs Wednesday to Friday.

“In any case, with or without an agreement, our policy is to prevent the terrorist regime in Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons, which would endanger us, the Middle East and the entire world.”

Alongside France and Germany, the United Kingdom, United States, China and Russia are also signatories to the 2015 agreement meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

Earlier this month, Trump waived sanctions on Iran as part of the nuclear deal, but said it would be the last time he does so, unless the pact’s “significant flaws” are addressed.

Last week, Netanyahu said he was warning European leaders to take Trump seriously. He said regarding a call with Macron earlier this month that the French premier had told him that, while he agreed with him about stopping Iran’s missiles and terror, the two disagreed about fixing or scrapping the deal.

“I said to him, if we don’t change the deal, it will double Iranian aggression in the region and its ability to threaten France with its rockets. They will have nuclear arms, if the agreement isn’t fixed, that’s how it will be,” Netanyahu said he told Macron.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, front, talks with US President Donald Trump, center, and France’s President Emmanuel Macron, prior to the first working session on the first day of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, July 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The White House is seeking to enlist European support to change the accord, including the removal of the so-called “sunset clause,” under which restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will expire a decade after the deal was ratified.

Hosting US Vice President Pence at his official residence in Jerusalem on Monday, Netanyahu said Israel agrees with the the US administration that the nuclear deal with Iran is “disastrous,” arguing that it paves Tehran’s path to a nuclear arsenal.

“Our position is clear: fully fix it, or fully nix it,” he said.

Pence told President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday that the US is seeking to work with European countries to alter the deal, but said “if our allies will not join us, President Trump has made it clear we will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal immediately.”

Amid the White House’s criticism of the agreement, France’s foreign minister criticized Iran for its development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, which he said violates the United Nations resolution cementing the nuclear deal.

Speaking at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels Monday, Jean-Yves Le Drian said talks would focus, among other things, on Iran’s military activities in Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.

“We will also have the opportunity of underlining our firmness on Iran’s compliance with United Nations Resolution 2231, which limits access to ballistic capacity and which Iran does not respect,” he said, according to Reuters.

The resolution’s appendix on ballistic missiles, which expires in 2023, calls on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Iran has said its ballistic missile development is not in violation of the resolution, as it claims to have no ambitions to acquire a nuclear weapon.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) meets with Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in London on January 22, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Toby Melville)

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also voiced concern over Iran’s ballistic missile development, saying Monday there “was a pretty wide measure of agreement on the European side” for the need to “constrain that activity.”

Johnson was meeting in London with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said there was agreement between the US and European signatories to the nuclear deal on the need to address Iran’s missile program and the accord’s expiration dates.

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