John Kerry to Visit Israel While World Powers Resume Talks With Iran

Officials say U.S. Secretary of State will be on standby to fly to Geneva to sign an agreement with Iran if a deal is reached.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be arriving in Israel on Friday to discuss the international talks on Iran’s nuclear program and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday.

Kerry’s visit to Israel will coincide with the next round of talks in Geneva between Iran and six world powers, which will resume Wednesday. Kerry will be on standby to fly to Geneva to sign an agreement with Iran if a deal is reached while he is in Israel, said Israeli government officials.

Kerry is expected to meet with Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the officials said, amid high levels of U.S.-Israel tension over whether to move forward with the Iran deal, which Netanyahu opposes.

On Sunday, though, the prime minister made conciliatory comments.

“John Kerry is an old friend of mine as well as a friend of Israel,” Netanyahu told the cabinet. “He is making an effort to move forward on peace between us and the Palestinians, and I will also discuss the Iranian issue with him. I would like to make it clear that there can be differences of opinion even between the best of friends – certainly on matters related to our future and our fate.”

Netanyahu said he held out hope for a better deal that would reduce the risk of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

“It is the obligation of the Israeli government to defend the interests that are crucial to us, and that is what we are doing in the face of an agreement that is a bad deal,” he said. “I hope we will succeed this week in convincing our friends to reach a better deal. Iran is under financial pressure, and increasing and intensifying this pressure could lead to the better result of a peaceable diplomatic solution.”

Netanyahu has condemned a proposal, endorsed by Washington, to reduce sanctions on Iran if Tehran suspends parts of its nuclear work.

The prime minister said he would discuss the issue with French President Francois Hollande, who arrives in Israel later on Sunday, and with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday.

"We will discuss (Iran) at the head of the many issues on the agenda," Netanyahu said of Hollande's visit in public remarks at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting. "I will do the same with President Putin in my visit to Moscow on Wednesday and I will do the same with John Kerry, who is coming here on Friday."