Iran’s foreign minister said Tuesday that Israel is using the issue of Tehran’s nuclear programme to distract from its “crimes” against the Palestinians.
Israel, along with Western countries, has long accused Iran of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons alongside its civilian programme — charges denied by Tehran — and the Jewish state criticised a landmark nuclear deal reached with world powers in November.
“Under the pretext of Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy (programme), the Zionists have always tried to distract governments and nations’ public opinion from their own crimes in Palestine,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a statement.
He made the remarks during a rare visit to Iran by Jibril Rajub, a senior official in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which is currently engaged in US-brokered peace talks with Israel.
Rajub, a senior member of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement, said the group “will not stop the resistance until the establishment of an independent Palestinian government” in east Jerusalem, occupied and annexed by Israel.
The agreement reached with world powers requires Iran to curb or halt its nuclear activities for six months in return for sanctions relief, and is aimed at buying time for the negotiation of a comprehensive agreement to resolve the decade-long dispute.
Israel, the region’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, views Iran’s atomic programme as its greatest threat and, like the United States, has not ruled out military action to halt or slow Iran’s nuclear drive.
Iran does not recognise Israel and has long supported armed groups committed to the destruction of the Jewish state, including the powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.