US leaving Israel in the dark on Iran talks, say Israeli officials
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'No updates in nearly two weeks'

US leaving Israel in the dark on Iran talks, say Israeli officials

American negotiator Wendy Sherman tried to call Israel’s national security adviser Yossi Cohen, but couldn’t reach him, US officials insist

From left, US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, sit during a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at a hotel in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 28, 2015. (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)
From left, US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, sit during a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at a hotel in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 28, 2015. (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)

The American negotiating team at the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna has not updated Israel on developments in the talks in nearly two weeks, Israeli and American officials acknowledged Tuesday.

The officials did not agree on the reasons for the failure, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

In a briefing to reporters in Vienna, senior American officials said that Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who has led the Iran talks for the US, tried to contact Israel’s National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen three times over the past ten days, but scheduling conflicts prevented the calls from going through.

A senior official in Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that the last update from Sherman took place 12 days ago, but insisted, “we have not declined any offers for further updates.”

Yossi Cohen, National Security Adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset September 2, 2014. (Noam Revkin Fenton/ FLASH90)
Yossi Cohen, National Security Adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Noam Revkin Fenton/ FLASH90)

High-level contact between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations has all but ceased as the Iran negotiations entered their critical final phases in recent weeks, the newspaper reported. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not spoken once with US Secretary of State John Kerry since the latest round of talks began in Vienna.

The result, according to Israeli officials, is that Israel has only a very partial understanding of what is taking place in the negotiating room.

American officials said Sherman intends to attempt to update Cohen again in the coming days.

Netanyahu has been an outspoken critic of the Iran talks in recent months, angering the American administration with his March trip to Washington to speak in Congress against the deal that US President Barack Obama considers a cornerstone of his foreign policy.

The prime minister spoke out again against the deal Tuesday, calling Iran “the greatest threat to world peace” and insisting world powers were caving in to Tehran’s demands.

“Iran, which is the greatest patron of terror in the world, is extorting from world powers more and more concessions,” Netanyahu said at a memorial ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem that marked 111 years since the death of Zionist movement founder Theodor Herzl.

“Iran is the greatest threat to world peace. The capitulation agreement that Iran is about to get from world powers is paving the way for it to arm itself with nuclear weapons and to carry them further with the missiles that it continues to develop, and of course to spread terror,” Netanyahu said.

Ministers from the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany — the so-called P5+1 nations — further extended nuclear talks with Iran Tuesday after missing a second deadline in a week.

The deadline was the latest to have been set for a comprehensive pact that would replace the interim deal world powers and Iran reached in November 2013. That package was extended three times, most recently on June 30.

The deal, aimed at ending a 13-year-old standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, would build on a framework accord reached in April in Switzerland.

World powers fear Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at producing weapons, an accusation the Iranians deny.

Stuart Winer and AP contributed to this report.

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