EU’s Ashton discusses Iran talks with Israel

EU’s Ashton discusses Iran talks with Israel

EU’s Ashton discusses Iran talks with Israel

Israel’s Netanyahu presents the country’s position on Iran to Catherine Ashton. REUTERS photo

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 9 to discuss the upcoming nuclear talks between world powers and Iran.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and incoming vice premier and Kadima party head Shaul Mofaz, who on May 8 agreed to join the ruling Likud party in a unity government, also attended the meeting. “They discussed Iran. Israel presented its positions as the next round of P5+1 talks in Baghdad approach,” an official told Agence France-Presse in 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.

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.” An EU official in Brussels, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the meeting, describing it as part of Ashton’s “regular and ongoing contacts -- the same as with other leaders.”

The official said the talks included discussion of “the situation in the region, the Middle East peace process, Iran and the new coalition setup in Israel.” The meeting 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.