BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF December 16, 2013
President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice hosted a series of meetings with Israeli officials over the weekend to discuss the Iranian nuclear deal signed in Geneva last month, Reuters reported Monday.
The talks were aimed at gaining Israeli support for the six-month interim deal which aims to scale back Tehran’s controversial nuclear program in exchange for an easing of international sanctions. The P5+1 world powers and Iran are currently in the midst of negotiations over a more comprehensive, long-term solution.
On Sunday, Iran’s foreign minister said his country would continue nuclear negotiations with world powers, even after pulling out of expert-level talks last week on technical details of last month’s interim deal to protest the US targeting companies it says evaded current sanctions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama administration officials have publicly spared over the interim deal, which the prime minister has labeled a “historic mistake.”
“During the meetings, the US team reaffirmed President Obama’s goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” the White House said in a statement.
Rice, along with other officials from the State Department and the Treasury, met with Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen and other Israeli officials in Washington on Thursday and Friday.
Reuters reported that the series of meetings were “an initial step toward fulfilling a promise Obama made to Netanyahu in their November 24 phone call that the United States would consult regarding the effort to forge a comprehensive solution with Iran.”
Some in the US Senate have lobbied for increased sanctions on Iran as negotiations for a comprehensive deal continue, a move Obama administration officials have warned would sabotage talks.
Last week, the Republican and Democratic leadership in the US House of Representatives failed to agree on a resolution that would have recommended parameters for the Iran talks.
Speaking at the Brookings Institute’s annual Saban Forum in Washington earlier this month, Obama said it was important for the US and the world to test Iranian intentions in the next six months.
“And if at the end of six months it turns out that we can’t make a deal, we’re no worse off, and in fact we have greater leverage with the international community to continue to apply sanctions and even strengthen them,” he said.