Upbeat Putin calls Rouhani as powers gear up for Iran talks ~ The Daily Star.
VIENNA: World powers and Iran geared up Monday for fresh nuclear negotiations, with Russian President Vladimir Putin telling Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani he was upbeat about prospects for a landmark accord.
Speaking two days before the talks resume in Geneva, Putin “stressed that a real chance has now emerged for finding a solution to this long-standing problem,” the Kremlin said.
But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “every right” to voice his opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran. However, he added, he believed Netanyahu was wrong to say the deal would hurt Israel’s security.
He said he had great respect for Netanyahu and his concerns that a deal with Iran would heighten the risk to the Jewish state, but that rather than make Israel less safe, a pact with Iran would actually reduce the country’s risk.
Rouhani, who has raised hopes for an end to the decadeold standoff, told Putin that “excessive demands could complicate the process toward a win-win agreement,” an Iranian government website said.
The comments came a day after French President Francois Hollande laid out in Israel the “essential” steps that Tehran must agree to with the U.S., China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, known collectively as the P5+1 group.
These included stopping the enrichment of uranium to 20-percent purity, reducing enriched uranium stockpiles, and stopping construction of a new reactor at Arak, Hollande said.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the minor and reversible sanctions relief that the P5+1 is offering in return will be enough to persuade Tehran to play ball.
“I confirm here that we will maintain the sanctions as long as we are not certain that Iran has definitively renounced its military [nuclear program,” Hollande said Monday. “France will not let Iran arm itself with nuclear weapons.”
His remarks were made in an address to the Israeli parliament.
Iran’s economy has been punished by a string of international sanctions. U.S. and EU restrictions have more than halved its oil sales, sent the currency plummeting and inflation soaring.
One potential sticking point is Iran’s previous demand that the powers recognize its “right” to enrich uranium.
“No agreement will be reached without securing the rights of the Iranian nation,” Iran’s lead negotiator Abbas Araqchi said Sunday, predicting “difficult” talks.
Iran says it is enriching uranium to purities of up to 20 percent for civilian purposes. When further enriched to 90 percent, uranium can be used as fissile material in a nuclear bomb.
Iran’s ability to enrich to 20 percent is of particular concern because this is most of the way to what is needed to producing weapons-grade uranium.
Its stockpile is already large enough in theory to make several bombs.
At present, the U.N. atomic watchdog would detect any attempt to enrich to weapons-grade. But the fear is that soon this may no longer be the case as Iran adds to its 19,000 centrifuges, thus shortening its “breakout” time.
Even though it would only be a first phase initial deal, an accord in Geneva would be a major breakthrough after a decade of rising tensions and failed diplomatic initiatives.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said last week that since Rouhani took office, Iran had put the brakes on expanding its program.
But watching with a skeptical eye will be hard-liners in the United States and Iran, as well as Israel.
Any deal deemed too soft on Iran will make it harder for U.S. President Barack Obama to dissuade Congress from passing more sanctions, which might scupper the negotiations.
Rouhani, meanwhile, risks losing the backing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei if the relative moderate’s “charm offensive” since taking office fails to bear fruit soon.
“If Rouhani is not getting anywhere, the conservatives are going to make a strong comeback,” Trita Parsi, author and president of the National Iranian American Council, told AFP.
The toughest to please could be Israel, which sees its very existence threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran allied with Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal itself, Israel has refused to rule out bombing Iran’s facilities, as it reportedly did with an Iraqi reactor in 1981 and a Syrian facility in 2007.
“Iran’s dream deal is the world’s nightmare,” Netanyahu said Sunday.
Hollande’s trip to Israel was partly to try to ease Netanyahu’s concerns.
Kerry, who was expected in Israel Friday in what would have been his second visit in two weeks, said Monday he would try to make the trip after the Nov. 28 Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S..
Netanyahu will also meet Putin in Moscow Wednesday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made clear Monday, however, that he felt some of Israel’s concerns were “divorced from reality.”
- Putin tells Iran’s Rouhani he sees a chance to end nuclear row (dailystar.com.lb)
- Putin tells Iran’s Rouhani he sees a chance to end nuclear row (theiranproject.com)
- Putin calls Rouhani ahead of talks (skynews.com.au)
- Hollande to Israel: France Will Keep Sanctions on Iran (voanews.com)
- Putin tells Iran’s Rouhani he sees a chance to end nuclear row (worldbulletin.net)
- Iran warns West over nuclear demands (bbc.co.uk)
- Nuclear talks expected to be difficult (skynews.com.au)
- France assures Israel it will stand firm on Iran deal – Reuters (reuters.com)