Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a shrine holy to Jews and Muslims, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank September 4, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged world powers on Thursday not to open a dialogue with Iran, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he may meet his Iranian counterpart to resolve a crisis over Tehran’s nuclear program and sanctions against it. “This is not the time to hold talks with Iran. This is the time to increase the pressure on Iran,” Netanyahu told reporters at Ben Gurion Airport before boarding a flight to London.
Netanyahu’s comments marked rare public discord between the right-wing Israeli leader and Trump on the Iranian nuclear issue. Netanyahu had previously counseled France against its own outreach to Iran. On Wednesday, Trump left the door open to a possible meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming U.N. General Assembly in New York, saying: “Anything’s possible. They would like to be able to solve their problem.”
Tehran has rejected any negotiations with Washington unless Trump drops sanctions he imposed after withdrawing from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, an agreement Netanyahu also opposed. Iran has said that, starting on Friday, it would begin developing centrifuges to speed up the enrichment of uranium, which can produce fuel for power plants or for atomic bombs. The Iranians deny seeking the latter.
The centrifuge move would be Iran’s latest reduction of its commitments to restrict nuclear projects under the 2015 deal. Netanyahu called this “another violation, another provocation by Iran, this time in the realm of its quest for nuclear weaponry”. In London, Netanyahu is due to meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper.