President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed two contentious topics by phone Monday: negotiations over Iran's nuclear program and the Palestinian application to join the International Criminal Court. Netanyahu has made clear he doesn't trust Tehran. Last month he said Israel had effectively scuttled a deal that would have left Iran as "a threshold nuclear power."
Iran is suffering under economic sanctions, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in December he hoped to reach a deal on the nuclear program. The U.S. has said it would lift sanctions once a deal is in place.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet Wednesday in Geneva to begin the groundwork for the next round of nuclear negotiations.
“The meeting is calculated to take stock, No. 1, and to provide direction to our teams, No. 2, and to hopefully be able to accelerate the process to make greater progress,” Reuters quoted Kerry as telling reporters in India.
There is far less tension between Netanyahu and Obama on the subject of the Palestinian application to join the International Criminal Court. As members of the ICC, Palestinians could pursue investigations and possible war crimes charges against Israel. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon approved the application last week.
During Monday’s phone call, Obama reiterated the U.S. does not consider the Palestinian Authority a state, and the ICC application is not "a constructive way forward." Washington, he told the Israeli leader, "encourages both sides to seek ways to de-escalate tensions."