TEL AVIV (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that concessions to Iran are increasing as it approaches the deadline for its nuclear talks with world powers.
Netanyahu referred to the June 30 deadline addressing the 163rd Pilots Course Graduation Ceremony on Thursday at the Hatzerim Israel Air Force base in Israel’s south.
“The foremost threat that endangers our security is Iran’s effort to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “Concessions to Iran are increasing as we approach the date that has been determined between the major powers and Iran for achieving the goals. These concessions are whetting Iran’s appetite.”
Whatever happens, Netanyahu said, “Israel will always defend itself and in this the air force will play a major part.”
Talks between six world powers – the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – and Iran entered the homestretch ahead of the Tuesday deadline as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry led a 19-person team to Vienna to try to bridge significant gaps remaining on the deal.
His French and Iranian counterparts, Laurent Fabius and Mohammad Javad Zarif respectively, were also expected to travel to the Austrian capital for talks.
On Friday, the AFP news agency reported that an unnamed U.S. official had said that talks may continue past the June 30 deadline.
U.S. President Barack Obama said in April that the interim framework agreement achieved then is “a good deal” that “meets our core objectives, including strict limitations on Iran’s program and cutting off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”
Netanyahu and other critics of the deal – which would gradually lift sanctions on Iran – say elements of the emerging deal that would allow Iran to continue a degree of uranium enrichment would allow it to creep toward nuclear offensive capabilities.
Iran has denied that it is seeking such arms. In a speech Tuesday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected a long-term freeze on nuclear research and insisted that Iran will only sign a deal if international sanctions are lifted first.
“Every day [Iran] raises its demands in order to extort even more concessions,” Netanyahu said in Thursday’s speech. “This agreement is fundamentally flawed. It leaves Iran with a path to achieve an arsenal of nuclear bombs within a decade.”