Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their Nov. 20 meeting in Moscow. (Agence France-Presse)
MOSCOW — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to apply lessons from a recent Moscow-led agreement to rid Syria of chemical weapons to ongoing negotiations toward a nuclear disarmament deal with Iran.
In a Wednesday meeting at the Kremlin, the Israeli leader said “there is much to learn from what was achieved” in Syria through diplomatic demands for full dismantlement of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons stockpiles.
Only through similar demands for full dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear weapon program, as prescribed by the UN Security Council, will diplomacy result in a “real solution” to the Iran nuclear threat, Netanyahu said.
In contrast to his address to the UN General Assembly in October and in numerous public appearances since then, Netanyahu demurred from direct or even implicit threats to act militarily should diplomacy fail to counter the Iranian nuclear threat.
“Both of our countries have a common goal: We do not want to see Iran with nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu told his Russian host.
“Israel’s attitude is that the international community must stand by its positions in UN Security Council resolutions. Namely, to cease all enrichment, to remove all enriched material, to dismantle the centrifuges and to halt construction at Arak,” Netanyahu said, referring to Iran’s heavy water reactor and research complex suspected of supporting a separate plutonium track toward nuclear weapons.
In their brief joint appearance with reporters here, Putin offered little indication of Russia’s willingness to harden its stance in talks that resumed Nov. 20 in Geneva between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. Those so-called P5+1 talks, expected to continue through Nov. 22, aim to test Iran’s sincerity in honoring Security Council demands through an interim deal that arrests — but does not halt — Tehran’s nuclear drive in exchange for partial and temporary sanctions relief.
“I must say that we are giving significant attention to pressing international issues,” Putin said cryptically before transitioning to Moscow’s desire to strengthen economic and technological ties with Israel.
Two days prior to his Nov. 20 meeting with Netanyahu and the start of renewed talks in Geneva, Putin’s office released an account of a Nov. 18 telephone conversation between the Russian leader and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
“With respect to the Iranian nuclear program, Mr. Putin said that a real opportunity has emerged today to resolve this problem that has gone on for many years now. Mr. Rouhani, for his part, gave a high assessment of Russia’s work in the group of six international mediators,” according to the Kremlin statement.
The Nov. 20 meeting here between Netanyahu and Putin took place against a backdrop of increasingly strained ties between the Israeli leader and US President Barack Obama, who Israeli leaders suspect may be willing to compromise on Israeli security requirements for the sake of securing a deal with Tehran. In a series of statements earlier this month, Netanyahu assailed the US negotiating position in the ongoing P5+1 talks as insufficient, and warned that Israel would not be bound by terms of a “very, very bad deal” that could lead to war.
While Netanyahu credited Russia for the firm leadership that resulted in the September agreement with Syria, he made no mention of Washington’s role in prodding Damascus toward chemical weapons disarmament through the threat of military force.
“There’s much to learn from the solution achieved in Syria with regard to chemical weapon,” Netanyahu said. “There, Russia and others correctly insisted on full dismantlement of Syrian chemical weapons.”
He added, “Every time we meet, we understand each other better, and our relations are constantly growing warmer and improving.”