Israel rejected out of hand on Friday a mooted deal between world powers and Iran, just as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry prepared to join nuclear talks that aim to nail down an interim agreement on the decade-old standoff.
Western diplomats say that a deal at the negotiations in Geneva is far from certain, and it would in any case mark only the first step in a long process towards settling the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Nevertheless, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran would be getting “the deal of the century” in the talks between Tehran and six powers.
“Israel utterly rejects it and what I am saying is shared by many in the region, whether or not they express that publicly,” Netanyahu told reporters.
“Israel is not obliged by this agreement and Israel will do everything it needs to do to defend itself and the security of its people,” he said before meeting Kerry in Jerusalem.
Israel has repeatedly warned that it might strike Iran if it did not halt the nuclear programme, accusing Tehran of seeking to build atomic weapons. Iran says its various nuclear facilities are geared only to civilian needs.
Tehran is trying to win respite at the talks from international sanctions which are strangling its economy. The United States has said world powers will consider relaxing some of the sanctions if Iran takes verifiable steps to limit its nuclear programme.
Iran and the powers are discussing a partial suspension deal covering only a limited period. It would be the first stage in a process involving many rounds of negotiations in the next few months aimed at securing a permanent agreement.
The core of that first stage would be freeing up cash frozen in foreign accounts for years, giving Iran access to funds.
Netanyahu was meeting Kerry for the third time in barely 48 hours. The U.S. secretary of state was due to fly immediately afterwards to Geneva where Iran and six world powers are holding negotiations. These are the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain - plus Germany.