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August 31, 2022 4:12 pm

Biden Speaks With Israeli PM as Iran Reviews Draft Nuclear Accord

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks on the phone with US President Joe Biden on August 31, 2022. Photo: Israeli PMO

US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid discussed the nuclear negotiations with Iran in a phone call on Wednesday, as world powers wait for Tehran’s response to an agreement on reviving their contentious 2015 accord.

The premiers “spoke at length about the negotiations on a nuclear agreement,” which after more than a year produced what the European Union called a “final” offer earlier this month, according to a statement from Lapid’s office. They likewise discussed “their shared commitment to stopping Iran’s progress towards a nuclear weapon.”

While addressing Iranian “terrorist activity in the Middle East and beyond,” Lapid emphasized “the importance of the strikes” ordered by Biden against Iran-affiliated militants in Syria last week, in response to rocket attacks that injured three US service members in northeast Syria.

Biden also expressed his commitment to Israel’s security, and “to preserving Israel’s capability to deter its enemies and to defend itself by itself against any threat.”

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In its own readout of the call, the White House noted that Biden and Lapid talked about “threats posed by Iran,” with the Israeli underscoring Washington’s “commitment to never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

Lapid has joined successive Israeli prime ministers in expressing strong objections to the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers, which imposed temporary limits on Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for significant sanctions relief. Washington withdrew from the pact under the administration of then President Donald Trump in 2018. Iran has since breached multiple caps on its nuclear activity.

The latest EU-drafted offer to revive the deal was given to Washington with “several comments” from Iran, according to the US State Department, and returned to Tehran last week.

Speaking in Moscow on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said his government is “carefully reviewing” Washington’s response, and needs “stronger guarantees from the other party to have a sustainable deal.” He also called on the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog to “close” its investigations into traces of uranium detected at three undeclared sites in Iran.

In the meantime, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby expressed cautious optimism over the state of negotiations. “We do believe we’re closer now than we had been in certain recent weeks and months,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Biden and Lapid’s exchange is the latest in a series of contacts between US and Israeli officials on the emerging accord, with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and national security adviser Eyal Hulata recently visiting Washington in a bid to influence the Biden administration’s policy. Israeli officials have made clear that their country would not be a party to the deal and will maintain operational independence.

Speaking to foreign reporters last week, Lapid argued that the proposed deal “does not meet the standards set by President Biden himself: preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear state,” and would grant “Iran a hundred billion dollars a year.”

Mossad director David Barnea has also denounced the emerging agreement, reportedly saying in a meeting with Lapid the following day that it gives “Iran a license to manufacture a bomb.”

Barnea is expected to visit Washington this week. Attempts are also being made to arrange a meeting between Biden and Lapid at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 20, a senior Israeli official told local media late last week.

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