“We cannot have hollow words in the conduct of international affairs, because that affects all other issues, whether Iran or North Korea or others,” Kerry said after talks with Netanyahu.
President Obama told ABC’s “This Week” in an interview broadcast Sunday that Iran understands that its nuclear program is “a far larger issue for us” than the use of chemical weapons in Syria and that the threat a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to Israel “is much closer to our core interests.” He said he was in “indirect” communication with the Iranian leadership.
Obama said Iran should not draw the wrong conclusion from his decision to back off from a missile strike against Syria. “My suspicion is that the Iranians recognize they shouldn’t draw a lesson that we haven’t struck [Syria], to think we won’t strike Iran,” Obama said.
Israel has reacted cautiously to the chemical weapons deal, under which Syria is to sign and ratify the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention and submit to inspections and, ultimately, destruction of its weapons. The agreement came after a chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb that U.S. officials have estimated killed 1,400 people.
Israel’s security establishment fears that a failure to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons could encourage Tehran, Syria’s ally, to continue to enrich uranium for a bomb.
And Israeli diplomats worry that the push for inspections of Syria’s chemical arms could throw an unwelcome spotlight on the secretive chemical and nuclear arsenal that Israel has built next door.
Netanyahu told Kerry that he supports U.S. efforts to force Syria to give up its stockpile of chemical weapons.
“The Syrian regime must be stripped of all its chemical weapons,” said Netanyahu, standing beside Kerry after their meeting. “That would make our entire region a lot safer.”
But earlier in the day, Netanyahu sounded a note of skepticism.
“We hope the understandings that have been achieved between the U.S. and Russia regarding Syria’s chemical weapons will show results, and these understandings will be tested by results — the full destruction of the stocks of chemical weapons that the Syrian regime has used against its own people,” Netanyahu said in remarks to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when Israel came under surprise attack from Syria and Egypt.
“We must also judge the results of the efforts of the international community to stop Iran’s nuclear armament,” he said. “Here as well, it is not words that will determine the outcome but rather actions and results.”
Kerry heads next to Paris for discussions about the Syria deal with foreign ministers from France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.