Netanyahu: World powers seeking to keep Iran nuclear deal alive should fix it

In call with France’s Macron, PM warns Trump’s threats to withdraw from deal must be taken seriously, outlines ‘5 crimes’ by Iran regime; French leader urges ‘respect’ for accord

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 11, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 11, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday said that fixing the Iranian nuclear deal signed with the world powers in 2015 would increase the chances of it remaining in place, amid threats by US President Donald Trump to withdraw from the accord.

Speaking by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron, the Israeli prime minister said that “Trump’s remarks should be taken seriously, and whoever wants to keep the nuclear deal would be wise to fix it,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office read.

The call came a day after Trump demanded that European partners work with Washington to “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.”

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace on December 10, 2017 in Paris. (AFP PHOTO / ludovic MARIN)

Netanyahu also told Macron the free world should “strongly condemn the five crimes of the Iranian regime,” listing “efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, developing ballistic missiles against UN Security Council resolutions, supporting terror, regional aggression,” and “the cruel repression of Iranian citizens.”

In the call with Netanyahu, Macron called for the “necessary respect” of the nuclear deal. A statement from the Elysee said Macron “remembers the importance of preserving the Iran nuclear deal and the necessary respect by all parties of their engagements regarding the accord.”

On Thursday, Macron told Trump that it was important for all signatories to respect the Iran nuclear agreement.

Tehran has rejected the notion of any modification of the 2015 nuclear deal, and has the backing of all of the partners to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the European Union — apart from the United States.

Trump signed a waiver on Friday keeping the Iran nuclear deal alive for the moment, and stating this would be the last time unless Congress and European countries heed his call to strengthen the deal.

Faced with a deadline over whether to reimpose the sanctions against Tehran that were lifted under the 2015 nuclear accord, Trump ultimately decided to keep those sanctions suspended for another 120 days.

“Today, I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said in a statement. “This is a last chance.”

“In the absence of such an agreement,” he went on, “the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately.”

US President Donald Trump speaks during an event to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Friday, January 12, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

If Trump had not signed the waivers, nuclear sanctions against Iran would automatically be reinstated, putting the US in contravention of the deal’s terms and likely spelling the end of the pact.

Trump laid out four conditions that must be met for him to not abrogate the deal, which included increased inspections, ensuring “Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon,” and that there be no expiration dates to the nuke deal. The current one expires after a decade.

His last condition required Capitol Hill lawmakers to pass a bill unilaterally incorporating Iran’s missile program into the nuclear deal.

“The legislation must explicitly state in United States law — for the first time — that long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs are inseparable, and that Iran’s development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions,” the president’s written statement said.

Iranians walk past a Ghadr-F missile displayed at a Revolutionary Guard hardware exhibition, marking the 36th anniversary of the outset of Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Sq. in downtown Tehran, Iran, September 25, 2016. (AP/Vahid Salemi, File)

“I hereby call on key European countries to join with the United States in fixing significant flaws in the deal, countering Iranian aggression, and supporting the Iranian people. If other nations fail to act during this time, I will terminate our deal with Iran,” he said. “No one should doubt my word.”

A defiant Iran on Saturday rejected any potential changes to the deal and vowed to continue to develop its ballistic missile program, saying it was the “only deterrent against enemy threats.”

Iran has repeatedly said that the nuclear accord could not be renegotiated. The Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Saturday saying Tehran would “accept no changes” to the deal and will not allow the accord to be linked to any non-nuclear issue.

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