Israel’s deputy premier said on Sunday that while he was aware of U.S. attempts to directly negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program, he did not believe such talks had actually taken place.
“It’s no secret that there were attempts to use the fact the United States participated in the P5+1 talks and met Iranians in these meetings to also create direct contact with Iran,” senior cabinet minister Moshe Yaalon said.
His remarks came after the New York Times reported that Washington and Tehran had agreed to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program in a report swiftly denied by the White House.
Speaking to Israel public radio, Yaalon said that Iran was, “in principle, against this, up to this moment.”
“I believe the White House denial at this point.”
Iran denies talks
Meanwhile, in a news conference on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, said that “we don’t have any discussions or negotiations with America.”
“The (nuclear) talks are ongoing with the P5+1 group of nations. Other than that, we have no discussions with the United States.”
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement on Saturday that Washington would continue to work with global powers on a “diplomatic solution” to the nuclear stand-off. He added that the U.S. “said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally.”
Negotiations between the so-called P5+1 global powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- and Tehran over its nuclear program have stalled, with tough sanctions aimed at forcing a breakthrough.
Israel and Western powers accuse Tehran of seeking to develop a nuclear bomb, charges which Iranian leaders deny, saying their nuclear energy program is purely for civilian purposes.
Israel, the Middle East’s sole, if undeclared, nuclear power, has refused to rule out a military strike to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear military capabilities.
According to Yaalon, who serves as strategic affairs minister, Israel would be the main beneficiary of a peaceful resolution.
“If Iran ended its military nuclear program as a result of direct talks between it and the U.S. -- we would be the first to welcome it,” he said.