JEDDAH: Israel will take action against Iran if it needs to, regardless of any nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers, the Israeli prime minister warned on Monday.
Naftali Bennett spoke as talks continued in Vienna on reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.
“Regarding the nuclear talks in Vienna, we are certainly concerned. It is important for me to say here clearly and unequivocally: Israel is not a party to the agreements,” Bennett said.
“Israel is not bound by what will be written in the agreements, if they are signed, and Israel will continue to maintain full freedom of action anywhere any time, with no constraints.”
Negotiations to salvage the nuclear deal resumed in late November after they were suspended in June as Iran elected a new, hard-line president.
The deal — agreed by Iran, the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — offered Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme. It collapsed in 2018 when the US withdrew and Donald Trump reimposed crippling economic sanctions. Tehran responded by enriching fissile uranium to levels prohibited under the agreement, and experts say it is now weeks away from weapons grade.
Israel has broadly opposed a restoration of the 2015 agreement but high-ranking officials — notably Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid — have indicated the country could support a deal that it viewed as offering definitive checks on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“There has been good progress on all four issues of removing sanctions, nuclear issues, verification and obtaining guarantees” during the latest round of talks, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday.
This progress was “the result of the efforts made by all parties to reach a stable agreement,” he said. “We are seeking a reliable and stable deal. If the other party thinks an unstable and unreliable agreement is to their benefit, this is not what the Islamic Republic is after.”
His comments are the latest in a series of positive announcements by Iran on the talks.
The US has participated only indirectly in the Vienna talks, which seek to bring Washington back inside the accord and to ensure Iran re-adheres to its own commitments.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said last week that negotiations were progressing on a “rather positive path” but it was urgent to bring them to a speedy conclusion.
Britain, France and Germany have said that the window for concluding a deal was “weeks, not months,” because of the speed of Iran’s nuclear enrichment.