Israel Calls for Iran Sanctions to Be Given Time Before Talks

(Bloomberg) -- At the same time U.S. President Donald Trump has ramped up sanctions on Iran, he’s signaled his willingness to meet the country’s leaders to hash out a new nuclear accord. Israel’s United Nations envoy wants him to hold off.

New sanctions targeting 700 individuals, banks, ships, aircraft and companies tied to Iran’s energy and financial industries need time to have an effect on the Islamic Republic before the U.S. even considers talks, Ambassador Danny Danon said in New York.

“First you need to apply the pressure,” Danon said in an interview before the latest penalties took effect on Monday. “We are not there yet for there to be talks. Mainly the U.S. will have to decide about that, but we can state our opinion when the time will come.”

Israel has perhaps been the most vocal supporter of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, arguing that with enough pressure a more comprehensive deal can be reached. But officials in Israel are quietly concerned that Trump may replicate his North Korea strategy, agreeing to a face-to-face meeting with Iran’s leader before the nation has agreed to dismantle its nuclear facilities.

In a statement Friday, Trump said that “the United States remains open to reaching a new, more comprehensive deal with Iran that forever blocks its path to a nuclear weapon, addresses the entire range of its malign actions, and is worthy of the Iranian people.”

Iranian leaders have repeatedly declined U.S. entreaties and no talks are currently planned. In a letter Monday to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo accused the U.S. of “irresponsible conduct” that merited a collective response by the international community to “prevent undermining diplomacy and to protect multilateralism.”

As sanctions hit, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told USA Today that his government would consider diplomacy if there were "foundations for a fruitful dialogue" on the Iran nuclear deal.

Iran’s Intentions

Danon said that tension with Iran has led him increasingly to cultivate ties with Arab leaders at the UN with whom Israel has no formal diplomatic relations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman on Oct. 25 for a meeting with Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the first public appearance there by an Israeli prime minister in 22 years, and last week he publicly voiced support for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the Saudi leader faces international condemnation for the killing of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi.

“The issue of Iran brings us together,” said Danon. “When I meet leaders from the region, I sense they truly fear Iran’s intentions, and that brings us together.”

Danon also criticized European leaders for seeking to bypass American sanctions, saying that’s futile because businesses are being forced to choose between doing business in the U.S. or Iran.

“It’s not going to work,” he said. “Even though they’re talking about different mechanisms, at the end of the day the companies are smarter than the governments.”

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