Interview with MFA Director General Aaron Abramovich on Israel Radio

August 4, 2008

Arieh Golan: With us today is the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aaron Abramovich. Good morning, sir.

DG Abramovich: Good morning.

Golan: So, what's going on right now?

DG Abramovich: Actually, everyone is waiting for Iran's answer, although our expectations were from the beginning that the Iranians wouldn't answer, that they would take their time and do all kinds of tricks to stall. In the end, they won't accept the package of incentives that was offered to them by the six states. In light of that, a renewal of sanctions is to be expected.

There was one proposal that was very generous - a freeze in exchange for a freeze. Suspending the enrichment in exchange for suspending the sanctions. They turned it down, despite some nice incentives that were offered. Now there's really no choice. I think it's clear today to the international community that there's no way to stop the Iranian program except to intensify the sanctions - of the Security Council and others.
Golan: Yes, but on the one hand there's talk about sanctions, we see of course that Teheran is thumbing its nose at the whole world. But even Germany, a few days ago, approved a deal worth 100 million euros between a German gas company and Teheran. It's not really serious (talk of sanctions).

DG Abramovich: To say that we're satisfied with what's going on everywhere - we're not, no doubt about it. We think that this struggle is not only an Israeli struggle, but a struggle of the entire international community.

Regarding the German deal, as soon as we heard of it we contacted the Germans. I myself was in contact with the Germans about this issue. They have various explanations.

Golan: What do they say? How do they explain it?

DG Abramovich: I don't think we should go into all the details.

Golan: It's very interesting, because the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was here and she was so friendly, so nice.

DG Abramovich: True.

Golan: But the other hand makes very good deals with Iran.

DG Abramovich: Yes, they said that international sanctions don't apply to this deal. This is a normal commercial deal that a company can make and the German government can't stop a deal like this. It's not a deal for 100 million; it's a little smaller. And so forth, all kinds of excuses.

We told them, gentlemen, it's not just a question of whether these or other sanctions formally apply. There should be an intent, especially on the part of a leading country in Europe like Germany, to end all commercial dealings with Iran.

A suitable atmosphere has to be created so that they won't want to make deals like this. This is the message we conveyed to them. I still hope that, as a result of the conversations we had with the Germans, the deal will be canceled. But this is not a one-time move; it's a long struggle. We believe that it's a struggle of the international community. Some countries are more determined [than others] in this struggle.

Golan: The United States, President Bush's administration seems very determined.

DG Abramovich: That's right.

Golan: Until the President became more flexible. He's opening an office of interests in Teheran, sending a representative to talks with the Iranians. Before, he wouldn't have done that. That means that the United States is already not so determined, or the Bush Administration, either.

DG Abramovich: I don't think that's true. I think the Bush Administration is very determined in this struggle against Iran. They are always looking for new ways to influence Iran; I think the Americans are determined. I think we are partners in this feeling, this great determination. They are not prepared for Iran to be nuclear. They are investing great effort, lots of energy. They lead the international community in the struggle. We talk with them frequently on this subject; there's dialogue all the time.

Golan: What is the working assumption between us and the Americans? When will Iran reach the point of no return, beyond which it will be too late to stop its nuclear weapons program?

DG Abramovich: I don't want to get into exact timetables, but there's no question that there's not much time left. There is competition between two timetables. There is the timetable of the Iranian nuclear program. This program is progressing all the time - with all kinds of difficulties, but progressing.

Then there's the diplomatic-economic clock that's creating pressure on the Iranians. Today the feeling is that the Iranian nuclear program clock is in the lead.
If more significant, unequivocal steps are not taken to stop the Iranian nuclear program, it will be completed before the sanctions achieve their purpose. That's not to say that there aren't any successes in the realm of the sanctions; if there weren't any successes, we wouldn't be appealing (to the other states) to continue them. There are successes, but we think we have to escalate them, on several planes.

This willingness exists in some of the states in the international community, and its potential has to be realized.

Golan: Yes, the main thing is to stop the program, and as long as that doesn't happen, it's hard to talk about successes. I would like to thank you. Good morning.

DG Abramovich: Thank you.