EU’s Ashton briefs Israeli prime minister on Iran talks


EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming nuclear talks between world powers and Iran, an Israeli official told AFP.

The meeting was also attended by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and incoming vice premier and Kadima head Shaul Mofaz, who on Tuesday agreed to join the ruling Likud party in a national unity government.

“They discussed Iran. Israel presented its positions as the next round of P5+1 talks in Baghdad approach,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The P5+1 grouping of diplomats from permanent U.N. Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany held a first round of talks with Iran on April 14 in Istanbul and a second round is due to take place in Baghdad on May 23.

At the talks, Netanyahu presented Ashton with his view of what Israel would view as progress: “Iranian agreements, with a clear timeline for implementation, on three points: the cessation of all uranium enrichment, the removal from Iran of all already-enriched material, and the dismantlement of the underground facility in Qom.”

He also expressed doubt the talks would achieve anything telling her: “From what we see so far, the Iranian regime is using these talks to play for time, and there’s no evidence they have any intention to cease their nuclear program.”

EU officials had no immediate comment on the meeting, which was kept tightly under wraps and only flagged last week by the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, which said Ashton would be briefing Netanyahu on developments in the P5+1 talks.

Israel is reportedly concerned the world powers may cut a deal with Iran that would have only a limited impact on its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions, Haaretz said last week.