Top US aide heads to Israel for talks on Iran, Syria (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Lachlan Carmichael 02/18/12)
AFP} Agence France Presse
AFP} Agence France Presse Articles-Index-Top
US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon will travel to Israel on
Saturday for talks with senior Israeli officials on a range of
issues, including Iran and Syria, the White House announced.
The announcement came as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU
foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton voiced cautious optimism about
the prospect for Iran to return to nuclear talks with six world
The top White House aide´s visit "is the latest in a series of
regular, high-level consultations between the United States and
Israel, consistent with our strong bilateral partnership, and part of
our unshakable commitment to Israel´s security," a White House
The move comes at a time of heightened tension between Israel and
Iran, in the wake of attacks on Israeli diplomats blamed on agents of
The visit comes ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for White House talks with Obama in early
March, where the leaders are likely to focus on Iran and the failure
to find a deal on resuming direct talks between Israeli and
Meanwhile, during a press conference in Washington with Ashton,
Clinton called a letter that the European Union´s top diplomat had
received from Iran "an important step" after a year-long hiatus in
negotiations and sharp tension.
"There is a potential possibility that Iran may be ready to start
talks. We´ll continue to discuss and make sure that what we´re
looking at is substantive," Ashton said at a press conference with
"But I´m cautious and optimistic at the same time for this," she
added as US officials have suggested that the economic bite of
sanctions may be pressing Iran to return to the negotiating table.
In a February 14 letter to Ashton, Iran´s chief nuclear negotiator
Saeed Jalili said Tehran is ready to resume stalled nuclear talks at
the "earliest" opportunity as long as the six powers respect its
right to peaceful atomic energy.
Ashton represents the permanent five UN Security Council members --
the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain -- plus Germany
in talks with Iran.
Ashton had written in her letter to Jalili in October that a solution
was possible only if the talks focused on addressing Western concerns
over the nature of Iran´s nuclear program.
Clinton, while stressing the six powers needed more time to study the
brief letter, noted some positive signs.
"I think it´s fair to say... that we think that this is an important
step and we welcome the letter," the chief US diplomat said.
"As outlined in Cathy´s October letter to Iran, any conversation with
Iran has to begin with a discussion of its nuclear program and Iran´s
response to Cathy´s letter does appear to acknowledge and accept
that," Clinton said.
Jalili wrote that Iran welcomed a statement in the letter "respecting
Islamic Republic of Iran´s right to the peaceful use of nuclear
energy consistent with the NPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty)."
"No doubt that by committing to this approach, our talks for
cooperation based on step by step principles and reciprocity on
Iran´s nuclear issue could be commenced," Jalili wrote.
Ashton acknowledged that the letter contained "no preconditions and a
recognition of what we´ll be talking about."
Clinton spokeswoman Victoria Nuland cautioned against any more "false
starts" in negotiations with the Iranians.
"We´ve had negotiations that started and fizzled, or negotiations
that ate up a lot of time and didn´t go where they needed to go to
reassure the international community," Nuland told reporters.
The last round of talks collapsed in Turkey in January 2011.
"The next question, really, is to look at then where we left off in
Istanbul," Ashton said, recalling that the powers had outlined
confidence-building steps such as ensuring freer movement for
The United States and other Western powers suspect that Iran is
seeking to build a nuclear bomb, but Tehran denies the charge,
insisting its atomic program is for purely peaceful purposes.
In a dual-track strategy, the six powers have offered Iran economic
and diplomatic incentives to engage in negotiations to stop uranium
enrichment work or pushed for imposing biting sanctions when they
refuse. (Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse. 02/18/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY