Israel 'won't allow' Iran bases, weapons transfers in Syria

Ahead of Germany trip, Lapid thanks European powers for ‘firm position’ on Iran

PM says UK, France and Germany were given up-to-date intel on Tehran’s nuclear activity; says during his visit he’ll coordinate stance with German Chancellor Scholz

Prime Minister Yair Lapid leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 11, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 11, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday thanked France, the United Kingdom and Germany for their “firm position,” a day after the European powers raised “serious doubts” over Iran’s sincerity in seeking a nuclear agreement.

“I thank France, Great Britain and Germany for their firm position on the issue,” Lapid said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

“In recent months we have had a quiet and intense dialogue with them, and they were presented with up-to-date intelligence information on Iranian activity at the nuclear sites,” Lapid said.

The premier said he was working alongside Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz in “a successful diplomatic campaign to stop the nuclear agreement and prevent the lifting of sanctions on Iran.”

“It is not over yet. There is a long road ahead, but there are encouraging signs,” Lapid said.

Lapid is set to fly to Germany on Sunday afternoon, where he will meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

“The purpose of the visit is to coordinate positions on the [Iranian] nuclear program and finalize the details on a strategic, economic and security cooperation document, which we are about to sign with them,” Lapid said.

Then-Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meets with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Jerusalem, March 2, 2022. (GPO)

The comments by France, the UK and Germany came after European mediators last month appeared to make progress in restoring the 2015 nuclear accord as Iran largely agreed to a proposed final text.

But chances dimmed when the United States sent a reply, to which Iran in turn responded with a fresh demand that the International Atomic Energy Agency close its investigation into several undeclared nuclear sites.

“This latest demand raises serious doubts as to Iran’s intentions and commitment to a successful outcome on the JCPOA,” France, Germany, and Britain said, using the acronym for the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

In a joint statement on Saturday, France, Germany and Britain said that the final package put to Tehran had taken the European powers “to the limit of their flexibility.”

“Unfortunately, Iran has chosen not to seize this critical diplomatic opportunity,” they said, assessing that “instead, Iran continues to escalate its nuclear program way beyond any plausible civilian justification.”

In this image made from April 17, 2021, video released by the Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, various centrifuge machines line the hall damaged on April 11, 2021, at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, some 200 miles (322 km) south of the capital Tehran. (IRIB via AP, File)

Iran’s foreign ministry described the European statement as “unconstructive” and “regrettable.”

In 2018, then-US president Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal and began reimposing biting sanctions, prompting Tehran to publicly roll back on its commitments under the agreement.

US President Joe Biden favors restoring the deal. Under the proposed agreement, Iran would enjoy sanctions relief and again be able to sell its oil worldwide in return for tough restrictions on its nuclear program.

Related: Exclusive – Nuclear deal with Iran off the table for time being, US has indicated to Israel

The three European powers’ statement came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken assessed that Iran’s latest reply on the nuclear deal is a step “backwards.” He also warned that Washington is “not about to agree to a deal that doesn’t meet our bottom-line requirements.”

Lapid on Sunday also repeated that Israel will not allow neighboring Syria to be used by Iran for the transfer of weapons to terror groups “and will not accept the establishment of Iranian bases or militia bases on our northern border.”

This satellite photo from Planet Labs PBC shows the damage after an alleged Israeli strike targeting the Aleppo International Airport in Aleppo, Syria, September 7, 2022. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

He made the comments two days after Aleppo Airport reopened after it was hit twice in a number of days in strikes blamed on Israel.

Since civil war erupted in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes against its northern neighbor, targeting government troops as well as allied Iran-backed forces and Hezbollah fighters.

AFP contributed to this report.

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