Monday, March 8, 2010

VP Biden and PM Netanyahu meeting set to focus on Iran

(Jpost).Mitchell’s absence from VP-Netanyahu meetings indicate Palestinian talks don’t top agenda.

Even as the US formally announced Monday that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority had agreed to indirect talks, the focus of the talks Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will hold Tuesday with US Vice President Joe Biden is expected to be the Iranian nuclear threat.

Biden is scheduled to meet twice with Netanyahu on Tuesday, once in the morning with staff, and then again at a dinner in the evening, with both men accompanied by their wives.

US Mideast envoy George Mitchell, who announced the indirect talks, will not be at the Biden-Netanyahu meetings, an indication that the Palestinian issue, although sure to be a topic of discussion, will not be the main agenda item.

Biden is expected to add his weighty voice to the cavalcade of top US officials over the last six weeks who have come to coordinate positions on Iran, assure Israel that the US is working aggressively to impose sanctions that could impact Teheran, and urge Israel not to take unilateral military action.

“I can promise the people in Israel that we will confront as allies every security challenge that we will face,” Biden said, in a written interview with Yediot Aharonot that appeared Monday. “An Iran armed with nuclear weapons constitutes a threat not only to Israel, but also constitutes a threat to the US.”

Biden, in the interview, did not answer the question of when significant sanctions would be leveled against Iran, saying only that consultations were continuing.

The vice president would not speculate regarding a timeline for the sanctions, but said the US efforts were “serious,” and that the US was approaching the matter with a sense of urgency.

Netanyahu, who has called for crippling sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector, is expected to tell Biden that the current international efforts are “too little” and “too weak.”

Biden, the highest-ranking US official to visit Israel since the Obama administration took office in January 2009, arrived Monday afternoon, accompanied by his wife Jill, for a three-day visit. He did not make a statement when he arrived and was met at the airport by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon.