Netanyahu: Sanctions on Iran not working

Cypriot President Demetris Christofias welcomes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Nicosia on Thursday. (Flash 90)

JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu used the platform of the first visit of an Israeli premier to Cyprus on Thursday to issue another strongly worded warning that time is running out to deal with the threat of a nuclear Iran.

Netanyahu added another point to the debate on sanctions versus military action by declaring that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s demonstrative tour of uranium enrichment centrifuges on Wednesday clearly shows that sanctions against Iran are not working.

The prime minister’s remarks came during a visit to Nicosia to confer with Cypriot President Demetris Christofias on Turkish threats to interfere with both countries’ natural gas explorations. He told a press conference that the Islamic Republic has a history of not playing by the rules.

“If anybody needed a reminder that the sanctions have not stopped the nuclear program, it was the guided tour by the Iran’s president in the centrifuge hall yesterday,” he said. “I hope they work, but so far they have not.”

Netanyahu described Iran’s regime as one that “breaks all the rules” ever since its revolution took over the American Embassy in Teheran in 1979. This kind of contempt for international law just had its latest expression this week in Iranian orchestrated attacks on Israeli diplomats—and their wives—in India, Georgia, and Thailand, he said.

“They send children into mine fields, they have suicide bombers, they send tens of thousands of rockets into our cities and towns,” Netanyahu said. “Such a regime should obviously not have an atomic bomb, and I believe that the international community is becoming aware by the day of what it means for Iran to have nuclear potential,” he said.

On a happier note, Netanyahu and Christofias agreed that their two countries would cooperate in the exploration of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean. The two leaders were meeting in response to threats by the Turkish government to block Cyprus from drilling for gas off the island nation’s coast.

“Turkey… will not allow under any circumstances foreign oil companies to conduct unauthorized oil/natural gas exploration and exploitation activities in these overlapping areas and will take all necessary measures to protect its rights and interests in the maritime areas falling within its continental shelf,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry declared in a press release Thursday.

Netanyahu told reporters that Israel and Cyprus were studying what form their cooperation would take. For example, it remains to be determined whether it would be more feasible to export gas production from both countries to Europe via Cyprus or eastward to Asia through Israel.

Cyprus’s desire to develop its off-shore natural gas deposits has been met with open hostility by Turkey, which has occupied the northern half of the island since 1974 and therefore contests Cyprus’s right to exploit its own resources. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has warned of a “necessary response” if Cyprus goes ahead with exploration.

President Christofias shrugged off the threat. “I call upon the international community, and especially the European Union, to send a strong message to Turkey that it must stop violating and start respecting international law, especially if it looks forward to becoming a member of the European family,” he said.