In Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken is seeking to ease tensions with Israel and Arab countries over a possible deal with Tehran.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken began a tour of the Middle East and the Maghreb on Saturday night, culminating in a meeting described as “historic” in the Israeli desert in the Negev (south), where his Arab counterparts had normalized their relations with Israel. And the question of returning to an agreement that forms the framework of Iran’s civilian nuclear program serves as a basis for his negotiations in Jerusalem and the ministerial meeting in the Negev.
The United States and Iran are in the final stages of indirect negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 pact, which should prevent Tehran from acquiring the atomic bomb in return for the lifting of sanctions that stifle the Iranian economy. And the EU assessed on Saturday that the conclusion of an agreement was a “matter of days”. “When it comes to the most important things, we are all in the same boat: we are each committed, determined to ensure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon,” Blinken said during the meeting. A press briefing in Jerusalem with his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid.
“The United States believes that the return to full implementation (of the 2015 agreement) is the best way to put Iran’s nuclear program back in the box it was in before it slipped out when the United States left the agreement” during the Trump administration in 2018, he added.
‘They will not succeed’
The agreement fell apart after the US withdrawal, followed by the reintroduction of sanctions against Iran, and after Tehran’s retaliation gradually freed itself from the restrictions imposed on its nuclear program. But Israel is vaguely looking at a possible deal between the superpowers and Iran, its number one enemy, and says they fear Tehran will use the deal to acquire nuclear weapons lurking.
“We disagree on the nuclear program and its consequences, but we are open to an open and honest dialogue,” Mr Lapid commented. “Israel and the United States will work together to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But at the same time, Israel will do everything in its power to stop the Iranian nuclear program (…) For us, the Iranian threat is not theoretical. The Iranians want to “They will destroy Israel. They will not succeed. We will not allow them,” he said.
Following his meetings with Israeli leaders, Mr Blinken will meet in the afternoon with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on the occupied West Bank. In the evening he goes to Sde Boker to meet with Mr Lapid, their colleagues from the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bahrain and Egypt. The Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco normalized relations with Israel in 2020. Egypt signed a peace agreement with the Jewish state in 1979.
“Normalization with Israel is the new normal,” Mr Blinken said as these agreements broke with decades of Arab consensus that conditioned the establishment of relations with Israel on a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians are worried about being left out. The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza, warned that the meeting in the Negev served to “legitimize Israel’s crimes” and to “integrate” the Jewish state into the region, posing a “danger not only to Palestine but to the whole.” territory”.
The Negev meeting “shows two things at the same time: that the Palestinian issue is at the bottom of the agenda and that there are more pressing issues like Iran,” Yoel Guzansky told AFP. senior analyst at the INSS Research Center in Tel Aviv. “It is also a sign that on the eve of an agreement with Iran” there are actors in the region who, according to him, are “united” in the face of the “dangers” in Tehran. “Behind closed doors, the exchanges will not be very smooth, but it will remain behind closed doors.”
“The most important message that will be conveyed is that there are several countries in the Middle East that are not satisfied with the US performance in terms of Iran (…),” Israeli analyst Uzi Rabi stressed. The discussions will be “heavy and not just Americans against Israelis, also Arab officials. But I doubt it will change the agreement,” he said. After Israel, Mr Blinken will travel to Morocco and Algeria.