Israel hosts top Arab diplomats concerned about Iran nuclear threat

It remains unclear if or when the nuclear deal will be renewed, but there are indications it could be soon despite several last-minute snags.

By Associated Press and World Israel News

The Biden administration has been working to renew the 2015 nuclear deal, which placed curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief. With support from Israel, the Trump administration withdrew from the deal in 2018, causing it to unravel.

Although Iran has since raced ahead with its nuclear program, Israel and Gulf Arab countries are deeply concerned about restoring the original deal.

Top diplomats from UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt will join US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for talks in Israel.

Israel fears it does not include enough safeguards to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Both Israel and its Gulf allies also believe that relief from economic sanctions will allow Iran to step up its military activities across the region, including support for hostile terrorist groups.

Blinken said the U.S. believes that restoring the nuclear deal “is the best way to put Iran’s program back in the box it was in.” He added: “Our commitment to the core principle of Iran never acquiring a nuclear weapon is unwavering.”

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He also vowed to cooperate with Israel to counter Iran’s “aggressive behavior” across the region.

It remains unclear if or when the nuclear deal will be renewed, but there are indications it could be soon despite several last-minute snags.

The negotiations have been complicated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia is among the six global powers negotiating with Iran, and condemnations by the U.S. and other western powers involved in the talks have added an element of uncertainty to the talks.

If a deal is reached, Israel has repeatedly noted that it is not a party to the agreement and reserves the right to take action, including a potential military strike, against Iran if it feels it is necessary.

“Israel and the United States will continue to work together to prevent a nuclear Iran. At the same time, Israel will do anything we believe is needed to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Anything,” Lapid said.

“From our point of view the Iranian threat is not theoretical. The Iranians want to destroy Israel. They will not succeed, we will not let them.”

Underscoring regional anxieties, Israel’s government has hastily arranged a meeting of top diplomats from Arab countries that have normalized relations with Israel and Blinken. The two-day gathering is set to begin later Sunday at a kibbutz in the Negev Desert where Israel’s founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion is buried.

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Six foreign ministers will participate in this historic meeting: Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Morocco Nasser Bourita, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt Sameh Shoukry.