by Barak Ravid
National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror traveled to Brussels on Monday for secret meetings with European officials ahead of the second round of talks between Iran and six world powers.
His trip reflects Israel’s concern about the possibility of a deal that would ultimately condone Iran’s enrichment of uranium.
Amidror met on Monday with Helga Schmid, who serves as the European Union’s deputy secretary general for political affairs, under Catherine Ashton. Schmid is coordinating preparatory talks with Iran ahead of the second round of negotiations about its nuclear program, scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad.
Ashton, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, heads the negotiation team for talks with Iran. The team is comprised of delegates from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany. During the next three weeks, Schmid will be in contact with the deputy head of Iran’s negotiating team, Ali Bagheri, to lay the groundwork for the next round of talks.
On Tuesday, Amidror will continue to meet European officials in Brussels, before heading for Berlin on Wednesday. In Germany, Amidror is expected to meet with his German counterpart, Christoph Heusgen, and with Germany’s representative in the talks with Iran, Hans-Dieter Lucas.
A senior Israeli official said the talks in Brussels and Berlin are “extremely sensitive.” He indicated that Amidror hopes to find out much more about the first round of talks with Iran and will ask for an explanation of the negotiating team’s strategy for the second round of negotiations.
Two weeks ago, Amidror visited Moscow for a similar set of talks. He met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who firmly said his country opposes any unilateral Israeli military action against nuclear facilities in Iran and believes that such an Israeli action would have destructive consequences throughout the Middle East.
Lavrov and other Russian officials told Amidror that the Iranians brought a positive attitude to the first round of talks in Istanbul. Russian officials say the Iranians are prepared to cut a deal reducing the scope of their nuclear program. Russia is proposing an agreement under which Iran would be prohibited to assemble new centrifuges for uranium enrichment and would round up all existing assembled centrifuges that are not in use.
A series of reports that reached Jerusalem from Washington, Moscow, Paris and other capitals following the first round of negotiations led Israeli officials to suspect that the six powers were on the verge of striking an agreement with Iran that would not require Tehran to bring its nuclear program to a complete halt. A number of sources indicate that such a deal would feature an Iranian announcement that it was halting its effort to enrich uranium at levels higher than 20 percent and agreed to send any existing uranium enriched at that level or higher out of the country.
Such a deal may also include Iranian consent to allow international inspection of its underground nuclear facility near Qom, sources said.
The sources speculated that Iran might demand in exchange that the Western powers agree to lift economic sanctions.
Iran is particularly eager to keep the European Union from expanding its embargo on the country’s oil exports and hopes to keep Western countries from boycotting its central bank. Both measures are slated to go into effect July 1.