Iran is buying time in nuke talks while it continues enrichment, PM complains to EU foreign policy chief

Catherine Ashton apparently came to Jerusalem to try to assuage Netanyahu’s fears about a deal with Tehran; it didn’t work

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

Catherine Ashton meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem earlier this year (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Catherine Ashton meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem earlier this year (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Iran is using the talks with world powers about its nuclear program to buy time and secretly continue enriching uranium, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday in Jerusalem.

In the meeting, which was also attended by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and incoming Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, Israel reiterated its concerns regarding the Iranian nuclear program, according to government officials.

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“What will be seen as progress is Iranian agreements and a clear timeline for implementations on three critical issues: the total cessation of all enrichment activities; the removal from Iran of all enriched material; and the dismantling of the [nuclear] facility near Qom,” a government official told The Times of Israel.

In April, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany — the so-called P5+1 — met with Iranian officials in Istanbul to talk about the country’s nuclear program. Although the parties spoke of a constructive meeting, the talk did not yield concrete achievements besides an agreement to reconvene on May 23 in Baghdad. After the Istanbul meeting, a frustrated Netanyahu said Iran has been given a “freebie,” as it received five more weeks “to continue enrichment without any limitation.”

According to Haaretz, Ashton came to Israel to “prevent Israel from speaking out publicly against the talks.”

Ashton was briefing Netanyahu about past and future discussions with Iran “in an effort to assuage his concerns that a deal is in the works that would authorize Iran to continue enriching uranium,” the paper wrote.

But apparently her efforts were fruitless: “The Iranians are using these talks to play for time,” an Israeli government official told The Times of Israel after the meeting. “So far there is no evidence that the Iranian regime has any intention to cease its aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

Ashley is only seeing Israeli leaders on this visit, and will not meet with Palestinians in Ramallah.

Ashton’s office did not immediately send out any information about the meeting.

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