Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ridiculed the idea that Israel’s prime minister should be seen as an expert on nuclear non-proliferation Wednesday, calling the P5+1 nuclear powers and Israel the greatest threats to the world’s security.
Zarif’s comments, to a crowd at New York University, came days after he met with his American counterpart for the first time since reaching a framework nuclear pact.
It is “laughable” that Netanyahu “has become everybody’s non-proliferation guru,” Zarif said, apparently referencing Netanyahu’s lobbying efforts against the deal.
Zarif said Israel is “sitting on 400 warheads, nuclear warheads, acquired in violation of the [UN’s] Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).”
Zarif was in New York to attend the five-year review of the NPT, which Israel is not party to.
Israel is considered a nuclear-armed state according to foreign reports, although it has never acknowledged its status. As a non-signatory to the NPT, it is not bound by the treaty’s rules.
Zarif accused Israel of hiding behind “scapegoats and smokescreens,” and said the Jewish state’s atomic arsenal was the second greatest threat to global security, behind the abundance of nuclear weapons possessed by the P5+1 world powers — the US, EU, Russia, China, France and Germany.
He said his country and world powers would meet Thursday to start bringing together the elements of a draft on a comprehensive nuclear deal.
He also said meetings would start on Monday in Europe to finalize all its elements, and that even though Iran certainly wants to meet the June 30 deadline for an agreement, “no time deadline is sacrosanct.”
Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry met Monday in New York for the first time since April 2, when world powers and Iran sealed a framework agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program.
They now have little more than two months to meet their own June 30 deadline for a comprehensive accord.
Israel has lobbied against the accord, saying it will give Iran a pathway to a nuclear weapon, which Jerusalem considers an existential threat.
Speaking to the NYU audience, Zarif shut the door outright on the possibility of his country holding negotiations with Israel on normalizing ties without preconditions.
He also avoided answering a question on whether Iran would be willing to negotiate with Israel should a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians ever be reached.
Israel and Iran enjoyed friendly relations before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Zarif also addressed Iran’s seizure of a cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz a day earlier, saying it had “nothing to do with Yemen” and was strictly a legal case.
“I think we should not read too much into it,” Zarif said.
The Iranian Port and Maritime Organization also released a statement saying that Maersk Line owed an Iranian oil company financial damages from an Iranian court ruling.
Ilan Ben Zion and AP contributed to this report.