JERUSALEM/VIENNA: Germany’s Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday that a new Iran nuclear agreement “cannot be postponed any longer,” during his first visit as chancellor to Israel, which staunchly opposes efforts to forge a deal with Tehran.
Policy differences on Iran surfaced at a Jerusalem joint press conference, with Scholz saying Germany “would like to see an agreement reached in Vienna.”
The latest round of negotiations to salvage Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal started in late November in the Austrian capital and the talks are expected to reach a crunch point in the coming days.
The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action secured sanctions relief for Iran in return for strict curbs on its nuclear program to prevent it acquiring an atomic weapon, a goal Iran has always denied pursuing.
“Now is the time to make a decision,” Scholz said. “This must not be postponed any longer and cannot be postponed any longer. Now is the time to finally say yes to something that represents a good and reasonable solution.”
Israel’s Premier Naftali Bennett has said he is “deeply troubled” by the outlines of a new deal taking shape, fearing it does too little to stop Iran from getting the nuclear bomb, while granting it sanctions relief.
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Bennett stressed on Wednesday that Israel is “following the talks in Vienna with concern” and warned that “Israel will know how to defend itself and ensure its security and future.”
“Bitter experience” with broken US promises has made it inevitable that Iran will push to defend its interests by securing a reliable nuclear deal, its top security official said on Wednesday, according to the Nour news website.
“Bitter experience with the US breach of promises and European inaction have made it inevitable to meet the requirements for a reliable, balanced and sustainable agreement,” Ali Shamkhani, head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was quoted as saying at a meeting between the council and Iranian lawmakers.
Despite progress in the negotiations, the key sticking point is that Tehran wants the issue of uranium traces found at several old but undeclared sites in Iran to be dropped and closed forever, an Iranian official said.
Some alternative solutions have been discussed in protracted talks between Iranian negotiators and Western powers, sources said, without elaborating.
Russia’s envoy to the talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, the most publicly optimistic among the delegation chiefs, told Reuters “we are one minute from the finish line” when asked about Iran’s indirect negotiations with the US.