U.S. Officials Say Tried to Update Israel on Iran Talks Three Times

Israeli officials deny claim that U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman failed to connect with National Security Adviser Joseph Cohen due to scheduling constraints, say last update was 12 days ago.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, front, and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman in Vienna, Austria, July 7, 2015.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, front, and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman in Vienna, Austria, July 7, 2015.Credit: AP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Senior American officials said Tuesday in a briefing to reporters in Vienna that over the last 10 days the head of the U.S. negotiating team to the nuclear talks with Iran had tried three times to contact Israel's national security adviser to update him about progress in the negotiations.

According to the officials, Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman had not managed to reach National Security Adviser Joseph Cohen due to scheduling constraints, but added that she planned to brief him in the near future.

The American officials' remarks follow a report in Haaretz earlier Tuesday, in which Israeli officials were quoted as saying that the government in Jerusalem had a fragmented picture of what has happened in the negotiating rooms in Vienna over the last 10 days.

The Israeli officials said that over the last few weeks there has been very little contact between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior advisers in the Obama administration regarding the nuclear issue. In the last 10 days, since the talks in Vienna began, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had not spoken with Netanyahu on the telephone even once.

The American officials told reporters that Sherman had updated her Israeli counterparts the day she arrived in Vienna two weeks ago, and that she planned to talk to Cohen in the near future.

A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem said that Sherman's last update was indeed received by Israel some 12 days ago, but denied that there had been American attempts to relay further updates.

"Since the last briefing 12 days ago, we have not rejected any proposals for additional briefings," the official said.

Although the intensive negotiations in Vienna have apparently made it difficult to find the time to brief Netanyahu's advisers, the lack of briefings also testifies to the tensions between Jerusalem and Washington over the deal coalescing with Iran. Netanyahu, who repeatedly issues public condemnation of the deal, did so very sharply again on Tuesday.

Speaking at the state memorial service for Theodor Herzl, Netanyahu said that Iran is extorting world powers for more and more concessions. "Iran is the greatest threat to world peace," Netanyahu said. "The concession-filled deal that Iran is about to receive from the world powers paves the way for it to arm itself with nuclear."

"The true aim of Iranian aggression is to finally take over the world," Netanyahu said, adding that in that as such, Iran is far more dangerous than ISIS. "How can you even put your trust in a country that repeatedly violates the international community's decisions? How do you give Iran hundreds of billions of dollars without the condition that this money won't be oil in the works of its expansionist terror machine?" Netanyahu said.

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