Possible extension to be given on negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program

Just hours ahead of deadline, reports claim possible extension; Officials in talks express both optimism and claim progress, some worried permanent deal my collapse ahead of June deadline

Iranian delegation in negotiations (AP)

Iranian delegation in negotiations (AP)

Reports Tuesday evening claim that there may be an additional deadline given to negotiations with Iran with world powers on its nuclear program. Reports have been minimum in the past two days, officials asking the press for privacy.

Six days of negotiations have been ongoing in this last round of talks held in Switzerland between the P5+1 foreign ministers, senior officials and diplomats. Russia announced that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has returned Tuesday to negotiations, Lavrov stating, “The prospects of this round of talks are not bad, even good I would say.”

His return made all foreign ministers present in talks.

The United States delegation stated that “no decisions have been made about our travel schedule” just hours before midnight on the March 31st deadline. A senior US State Department official stated that “Our team is evaluating where we are throughout the day and making decisions about the best path forward. We will of course keep working if we are continuing to make progress, including into tomorrow if it’s useful to do so.” And a White House Spokesman stated, “If we have made progress toward the finish line, then we should keep going.”

A Western diplomat was quoted Tuesday evening stating, “We need to get this done now. We only have a few hours left to get a framework agreement or the job is going to become much, much more difficult.” A second diplomat stated, “With Congress, the Iranian hawks and a Middle East situation where nobody’s exactly getting on, I’m not convinced we’ll get a second chance if this fails. If we don’t have some type of framework agreement now, it will be difficult to explain why we would be able to have one by June 30.”

While several officials and sources expressed optimism and progress in negotiations, several addressed a possible failure to reach a permanent deal by June.

Earlier on Tuesday, reports from officials in talks claimed that a general statement would be released agreeing that significant progress has been made in negotiations and that continued negotiations in a “new phase” will begin, and that a comprehensive accord is to be reached by the final deadline for the implementation of a permanent nuclear deal by the end of June.

Prime Minister Netanyahu referred to Iran as the greatest threat to the State of Israel, again warning that any deal with Iran will “pave the way to a Iranian nuclear bomb”, stating, “It appears the deal being formed in Lausanne will leave Iran with underground facilities, the nuclear reactor in Arak and with advanced centrifuges. In our estimation, (the time to creation of a nuclear weapon) will be reduced to under a year and perhaps far less than that. The greatest threat to our security and our future was and remains Iran’s attempt to be armed with nuclear weapons…We will do everything to protect our security and our future.”

Israel swears in its 20th Knesset in Jerusalem

New government introduces 39 new MP’s and a record high of 29 female MP’s

plenum_big

The 20th Knesset (Parliament) is being sworn-in today in Jerusalem. A swearing-in ceremony is to be held for the 120 Knesset members with 39 new members of parliament.

The 20th Knesset has 29 women including a female Secretary-General, Yardena Meller-Horowitz. This is a record high for female MK’s in Israel’s history.

The 20th Knesset also has a record high of Arab MK’s than before with a total of 17.

As per tradition, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will enter the Knesset. After three gavel knocks he will give a speech, introducing and implementing the new government. He will then introduce appointed interim speaker, Amir Peretz of the Zionist Union to give a speech. MK’s will vote later on a permanent speaker for the 20th Knesset.

Following the speeches, 119 MP’s will pledge allegiance as Israel’s new lawmakers and will state together “I pledge allegiance to the State of Israel and to faithfully fulfill my mission in the Knesset” followed by the singing of Israel’s national anthem, HaTikva (The Hope).

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s mission to form a new coalition in the coming weeks was officially announced. The Prime Minister took the opportunity to congratulate the new government, stating, “We should all be proud of our unique achievement; we have preserved our precious democracy. This is a great achievement…  amidst turmoil everywhere we look… Nothing is as great and meaningful as serving the public and the country. My door is open and will continue to be open to all representatives of the selected parties; this is an invitation.”

He addressed his formation of Israel’s next government saying, “I intend to form a government that will work for all citizens of Israel without exception. Our first mission is to mend the rifts – this is a mission that unites us all. I want to emphasize again, I am committed to lowering the cost of living with an emphasis on reducing housing prices.”

And addressing Iran on the day of the deadline of negoatiations, Netanyahu stated, “It appears the deal being formed in Lausanne will leave Iran with underground facilities, the nuclear reactor in Arak and with advanced centrifuges. In our estimation, (the time to creation of a nuclear weapon) will be reduced to under a year and perhaps far less than that. The greatest threat to our security and our future was and remains Iran’s attempt to be armed with nuclear weapons…We will do everything to protect our security and our future.”

Members of the Knesset will give their inaugural speeches on Wednesday.

World powers and Iran continue negotiating day ahead of deadline

Deadline for talks tomorrow; Foreign Ministers continue negotiations in Switzerland; Reports deal may be made but comprehensive accord possibly to fail by June 30th deadline

P5+1 and Iran (Reuters)

P5+1 and Iran (Reuters)

As of reports Monday morning, a nuclear deal has not been reached between Iran and world powers, the deadline for a framework agreement tomorrow.

The United States, Iran, Britain, Russia, France and China are all continuing heavy negotiations, reports from various sources stating a deal may not be met by the designated deadline of March 31 or that even if a deal was made, a comprehensive accord for June 30 could fall apart.

Foreign Minister from all P5+1 states have been meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland working on a reported 10-year suspicion of “sensitive nuclear work” in Iran.

According to a senior negotiator from Iran, “No deal has been reached, and the remaining issues have to be resolved” several diplomats and sources citing major issues still existing in talks.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated that he could “cannot rule out” what would come of negotiations and that “this is almost always the case with such negotiations where the stakes are high and in which we feel responsible not only to ourselves but to all the others who are not at the table. I can’t rule out that there will be further crises in these negotiations.”

Press Secretary for the White House, Josh Earnest stated that the United States have “been negotiating for more than a year and ultimately it’s time for the Iranians to send a clear signal to the international community about whether or not they are willing to make the serious commitments required.”

World powers have been in negotiations for over 18 months.

Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the possible deal with Iran stating, “The emerging agreement in Lausanne sends a message that there is no price to pay for aggression, and conversely, there is a reward for Iran’s aggression. The moderate and responsible states in the region, led by Israel and many others, are the first to be affected by this agreement… It is impossible to understand how when in Yemen forces supported by Iran continue to occupy more and more areas, in Lausanne we turn a blind eye to this aggression. But we will not turn a blind eye, and we will continue to act against any threat in any generation, and certainly in this one.”

World powers and Iran reportedly close to deal on Iran’s nuclear program

Just two days ahead of deadline, reports claiming deal nearly reached; Negotiations continue in Switzerland

World powers, EU and Zarif (AFP)

World powers, EU and Zarif (AFP)

Just two days before the scheduled deadline for negotiations between Iran and world powers, reports Sunday claim that negotiators are closer to a deal then in the past however, several diplomats in talks have reported Iran as being “difficult” and not moving forward.

Negotiations have been ongoing since the weekend in Lausanne, Switzerland. Intense talks have been carried out over the weekend between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Reports in the past month have been “optimistic” on a final deal which world powers and Iran would finalize, the State of Israel and many in Congress against a deal with Iran.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, stated that they “have never been so close to a deal”, reports from the several European diplomats claiming success and likelihood a final deal will be made in time.

An official in talks however stated that Iran is “not moving. It’s very difficult. It is not going well. We are really at a point where the Iranians need to decide whether they want this or not.” An additional official in talks stated that the Iranians “like to negotiate on the edge of a precipice. They’re very good at it.”

Head of Iran’s negotiating team Mohammad Javad Zarif stated on talks held in Switzerland Saturday that “We’re moving forward. I think we can in fact make the necessary progress to be able to resolve all the issues and start writing them down in a text that will become the final agreement once it’s done.” He additionally stated that, “In negotiations, both sides must show flexibility. We [Iran] have, and are ready to make a good deal for all. We await our counterparts’ readiness” in reference to world powers.

Prime Minister Netanyahu warned of the dangers of a deal with Iran in his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, stating that “This deal, as it appears to be emerging, bears out all of our fears, and even more than that.”

Prime Minister announces that Israel will release frozen Palestinian tax funds

Since PA signing of Roman Statute in January, Israel has frozen tax funds release as sanctions; Israel to release frozen funds

Erekat and Abbas signing of official request to join ICC (Reuters)

Erekat and Abbas signing of official request to join ICC (Reuters)

Israel announced on Friday that it would begin to release the tax funds it collected from the Palestinian Authority.

Israel gives the Palestinian Authority around $127 million in tax return for goods for the Palestinian market in transit via Israel’s ports.

Israel made the decision to halt the tax returns following the Palestinian Authority’s signing of the Roman Statute in January, a unilateral move by the Authority against Israel and any negotiaions following the United Nations Security Council rejection of their statehood bid.

The tax return freeze was set up as a sanction against the Palestinians for their refusal to cooperate and continued attempts to charge Israel for war crimes in the International Criminal Court of The Hague.

The Palestinian Authority will officially join the International Criminal Court on April 1, 2015.

The decision comes from harsh international criticism, specifically from the European Union and United Nations, and after the IDF warned this week that the economic hardships caused due to the tax freeze could cause uprisings in the West Bank. Reports also confirmed that the IDF approved high numbers of work visas for Palestinian foreign workers in Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu confirmed the tax funds release Friday, his office releasing the statement: The tax revenues that accrued up until February will be transferred, offset by payments for services rendered to the Palestinian population, such as electricity, water and hospitalization.

The press released stated that the decision to release the fund was for “humanitarian concerns” Netanyahu stated that it was in Israel’s best interest, stating that, “Given the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, one must act responsibly and with due consideration alongside a determined struggle against extremist elements.”

According to reports, workers of the Palestinian Authority specifically civil servants were 60% of their normal salaries due to the freeze.

Netanyahu officially begins to form Israel’s new government

Israeli President officially tasks Netanyahu with forming new coalition; Netanyahu to form government within six weeks; PM addresses security, Palestinians, welfare and his role as head of Israel’s 20th Knesset

President Rivlin and PM Netanyahu (Roi Yanovsky)

President Rivlin and PM Netanyahu (Roi Yanovsky)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has officially appointed Prime Minister to begin to form the 20th Knesset Wednesday. Netanyahu will begin to form the next government in the following days and has up to six weeks to create a new coalition of 67 seats of 120.

The Prime Minister met with President Rivlin in his resident in Jerusalem and addressed peace with the Palestinians, his role as prime minister and his goals for the State of Israel as he resumes his position as Israel’s prime minister.

He stated that, “As the prime minister of each and every one of you – those who elected me and those who did not. I will act to mend the rifts which have opened up between different segments of society during the election.”

Speaking at length of peace he stated, “The people of Israel know that real peace, that our entire future, will only be secured if Israel remains strong…” adding that “Our hand is extended in peace to our Palestinian neighbors” amidst harsh domestic and international criticism of his announcement that there would be no Palestinian state under his government.

He cited Israel’s main challenges as that of “fortifying our defenses and improving our welfare” addressing the upcoming end of negotiations between world powers and Iran. Talks are set to end at the end of March with a framework agreement. He stated that “This agreement endangers us, our neighbors and the world. We see eye to eye with many of our Arab neighbors regarding the danger Iran poses, and recognize the benefits this new partnership will yield to the region.”

President Rivlin stated that Netanyahu is ”tasked with the grave responsibility of forming a government as stable and as wide as possible, and soon… The incoming government and Knesset are faced with three critical tasks, both coalition and opposition as one. The first is reinforcing the ties between Israel and the US, our biggest and most important ally. The second is to restore stability to the political system and restoring the public’s trust in the system – we must not go back to elections in two years. And the third is healing the painful wounds and rifts opened in recent years, which have grown during this election campaign.”

Addressing Israeli citizens he stated, “To the citizens of Israel, we’ve gone through a difficult election campaign… Things were said on all sides that should not have been said. Not in a Jewish state, and not in a democratic state. The heat of the flames serves no one. The fire is not just hot, it could burn. Today is time to start the healing. This is the time to start mending the rifts. We must also be prepared for difficult days that might come. In order for us to fight for our home, we must continue building it, together, all Israeli citizens as one. The responsibility for that lies on all of our shoulders, and it lies on your shoulder, Mr. Prime Minister.”

Netanyahu responded that he accepts his duty, relating his current position to Passover. He stated “I’m excited as if this was the first time, and I’m well aware of the magnitude of the responsibility placed upon me. In each and every generation a man is obligated to see himself as if he has left behind his personal confinements. My friends and citizens of Israel, I do not forget this commandment for a moment. I remember well that our freedom is not to be taken for granted. We will ensure it only if we are righteous and united.”

Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu “very businesslike”

Obama stated that he has “very businesslike relationship” with PM

Netanyahu and Obama in the White House  (Avi Ochion, GPO)

Netanyahu and Obama in the White House (Avi Ochion, GPO)

President Barack Obama officially responded to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Congress address and post-elections in Israel, referring to his relationship with Netanyahu currently as a “very businesslike relationship”.

Ahead of stating his disapproval of Prime Minister Netanyahu, Obama addressed reports that Israel spied on negotiations between the United States and Iran, an accusation that Israel strongly denies. He stated to journalists that, “As a general rule, I don’t comment on intelligence matters in a big room full of reporters, and I think I’ll continue that tradition.”

He then went on to criticize Prime Minister Netanyahu’s pre-election speech in which he stated there would be no creation of a Palestinian state “on his watch” due to the growing threat of radical Islam in the region. Obama stated, “In the election run up, stated that a Palestinian state would occur while he was prime minister. And I took him at his word, that that is what he meant, and I think that many voters in Israel understood him to be saying that fairly unequivocally.”

On the Palestinians, he stated “With respect to Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, I think it’s important to understand that the issue here is not what I believe, but it’s what the Palestinians and the parties in the negotiations and the Israeli people believe is possible. That’s the most important issue” adding that, “The issue is not a matter of relations between leaders… This can’t be reduced to a matter of somehow let’s all, you know, hold hands and sing Kumbaya. This is a matter of figuring out how do we get through a real knotty policy difference that has great consequences for both countries and for the region.”

He reaffirmed his commitment to the safety of the Israeli people and the United States as an ally to the Jewish State stating that he “will continue to do whatever I need to do to make sure that our friends in Israel are safe. That’s what I’ve done since I’ve been president. And that’s not going to stop. The Israeli people need to know that.”