JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Wednesday issued its strongest warning yet that Iran must never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon or the ability to build one.
The Kingdom spoke out on the eve of the resumption of talks aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, which collapsed in 2018 when the US pulled out.
Any renegotiated deal must be “stronger and longer,” and ensure that “Iran is prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons or developing the necessary capabilities,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.
It must also “take into account the deep concern of the countries of the region about Iran’s escalatory steps to destabilize regional security and stability, including its nuclear program,” the ministry said.
Talks on reviving the JCPOA began in Vienna last week, and resume on Thursday. They involve Iran and the world powers who signed the original agreement, with a US delegation taking part indirectly.
The negotiations have been overshadowed by an Israeli sabotage attack on Sunday that crippled Iran’s flagship nuclear development plant at Natanz, and by Tehran’s response — increasing its enrichment of fissile uranium from 20 percent to 60 percent purity, far in excess of what is required for peaceful civilian purposes, and closer to bomb grade purity of 90 percent.
Iran has “almost completed preparations” for the increased enrichment, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency said after visiting the Natanz plant on Wednesday.
The move prompted anger in Europe and the US. Britain, France and Germany described it as “dangerous,” not based on credible civilian reasons, and an important step toward the production of a nuclear weapon.
The Biden administration described Iran’s 60 percent enrichment as “provocative,” and said Washington was concerned.
Any renegotiated agreement that does not address Iran’s ballistic missile program and Tehran’s support for proxy militias in the region would not work, said Rayed Krimly, head of policy planning at the Saudi Foreign Ministry.
Saudi Arabia has faced a barrage of missile and drone attacks launched by the Iran-backed Houthi group in Yemen.
“Saudi Arabia is not interested in hindering or blocking the current negotiations ... it is interested in ensuring their success in achieving effectively the desired results,” Krimly said. He said the Kingdom was consulting with world powers. “We want to make sure at a minimum that any financial resources made available to Iran via the nuclear deal are not used ... to destabilize the region.
“We can begin with a nuclear deal and move on to another format that will discuss all these issues in a positive manner. Maybe such a process can begin with confidence-building measures, by reducing tensions, by reducing the arms race in the region, and then build on these steps toward a better future for all of us.”
Krimly said Saudi Arabia was committed to working toward sustainable peace and security, but retained the right to defend itself under international law. “Our security and stability is not something we will bargain with,” he said.