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February 10, 2022 2:16 pm

Nuclear Deal Would Be Dangerous ‘Mistake,’ Bennett Tells German FM, as Vienna Talks Enter ‘Final Phase’

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock meet in Tel Aviv on Feb. 10, 2022. Photo: Koby Gideon (GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned Thursday that signing a nuclear agreement with Iran would be a “mistake” as Germany’s foreign minister expressed confidence that such a deal would make the region, including Israel, more secure.

A revived nuclear accord would “endanger the entire region,” Bennett told Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during a meeting in Tel Aviv. The Israeli leader urged negotiating parties, which include Germany, to set a deadline for the end of negotiations, “since their extension, even as the enrichment of uranium continues, only serves Iranian interests,” he said.

The remarks come as indirect talks between Iran and the United States on trying to salvage the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, resumed on Tuesday.

At a joint press conference with Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid, Baerbock said that talks with Iran are entering a “final phase.”

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“We are at a very critical point. Time is running against the JCPOA since Iran continues with the development of its nuclear program,” Baerbock said. “It’s important that Iran now comes back to the negotiation table with a willingness to compromise and without maximal demands.”

“We want to do everything we can to make sure that with this agreement Israel’s security is guaranteed,” she added.

Lapid reiterated Israel’s position on the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, echoing Bennett’s remarks that a “nuclear Iran endangers not only Israel, but the entire world.”

“The E-3 countries cannot also ignore the threat posed by Iran beyond its nuclear program,” Lapid argued, referring to Germany, France and the UK. “Iran is Hezbollah in the north, Iran is Hamas in the south, Iran is an exporter of terror from Yemen to Buenos Aires.”

Lapid said he had a “long and positive meeting” with Baerbock and described the alliance with Germany as one of Israel’s “most important relationships.”

“The friendship between Israel and Germany is based on the fact that we don’t deny the past, and don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. We deal with it,” Lapid remarked. “The existence of a strong and proud Israel is the guarantee of “Never Again.”

Lapid also thanked Baerbock for her commitment to a “strong and secure” Israel.

“We see issues the same way, from climate change and LGBT rights, to the importance of battling racism in all its forms, and the need to fight for democracy, which has come under global attack in recent years,” Lapid said.

Baerbock arrived Wednesday in Israel, the first stop on her three-day Middle East tour that also takes her to the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Egypt.

“Being able to start my first official trip to the Middle East in Israel means a lot to me,” Baerbock said following the meeting with Lapid. “Your country can continue to rely on Germany’s solidarity and our commitment to Israel’s security.”

Earlier on Thursday, Baerbock visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and laid a wreath to commemorate the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.

“As a mother of two daughters, I find it hard to breathe when I think of the millions of Jewish children who were murdered — torn from their parents, left alone, full of fear. The thought of the pain of every child, mother & father, is almost unbearable,” Baerbock said at Yad Vashem. “Yet, this monument full of pain, demands that we not fall silent, that we not stand still. Yad Vashem beseeches us to hear the voices of the very people who experienced the horror and to pass on their testimony.”

Baerbock emphasized that there is a “duty” and “responsibility” to speak out against antisemitism, hatred, hate speech, exclusion and violence.

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