National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror visited London this week to discuss Iran, ahead of the second round of talks between the superpowers and the Islamic Republic to be held in Baghdad in three weeks.
British officials assured Amidror that the representatives of Germany and the five permanent members of the Security Council were "not naive" concerning Iran, but that there was a possibility Iran might respond positively to Western demands over its nuclear program. Amidror met his British counterpart Sir Kim Darroch, Foreign Secretary William Hague and senior Defense Ministry and intelligence officials.
"There were very intense discussions on Iran," Matthew Gould, Britain's ambassador to Israel, told Haaretz after taking part in the talks. "We compared notes about the negotiations approach, about how we continue to tighten sanctions and about the analysis of the progress of the Iranian nuclear program. The level of cooperation between the two countries is very high."
Amidror also held talks in Germany, and met in Brussels with Helga Schmid, senior advisor to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is in charge of preparing the European position ahead of the Baghdad talks. Amidror stressed in all the meetings Israel's fear that the West would make too many concessions in its eagerness to strike an agreement. Israel is particularly worried that some of the sanctions imposed on Iran might be lifted.
'We're not naive'
"We are very clear, we are absolutely not naive about Iran's intentions and about Iran's negotiation tactics," said Gould. "The people in London who deal with this dossier have been dealing with Iran for years and years. Our representative in the talks is Jeffrey Adams who was our ambassador to Tehran. There is no naivete in our approach to these talks." Gould insisted that the superpowers "will not let Iran use those negotiations simply to buy time. These will not be open-ended negotiations and if Iran thinks it can just string those negotiations out to avert further pressure they are totally wrong."
Trying to calm Israeli fears, he said: "Iran will not get something for nothing. We will not be lifting sanctions simply because the atmosphere of the talks is constructive. Iran needs to come to the table with concrete proposals for how it can rebuild the trust of the international community. We will judge Iran by its actions and take our decisions accordingly. People who are worried that we are going to get carried away with a kind of negotiating warmth and that suddenly we will dismantle the sanctions regime don't need to worry." Iran, according to Gould, would have to take concrete steps to convince the West to set aside the oil embargo set to begin on July 1. "Iran must not think and Israel must not worry that just because we are talking the pressure is off Iran."
The ambassador added that despite Israeli skepticism, the negotiations route must be fully explored. "We all agree that a negotiated peaceful solution to this is better than the alternative," he said. "If this is the case, we need to at least keep the door open to the possibility that these talks might succeed. We need to be ready to take yes for an answer. I know there is concern in some quarters in Israel that the P5 +1 will give away all the leverage we have with the sanctions just to get an agreement. I think our record on this issue should give confidence that we are not trying to get an agreement just for the sake of an agreement."
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