As Vienna talks resume, Israel, UK say they’re working jointly to block nuclear Iran

In piece published in UK’s Telegraph newspaper, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his UK counterpart Liz Truss together urge allies to cooperate to ‘thwart Tehran’s ambitions’

(L) Yair Lapid on November 22, 2021 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90) and (R)  Liz Truss on Oct. 3, 2021 (AP Photo/Jon Super)
(L) Yair Lapid on November 22, 2021 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90) and (R) Liz Truss on Oct. 3, 2021 (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Israel and the United Kingdom will work together ceaselessly to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, the foreign ministers of both countries declared Monday. Their comments came ahead of the signing later in the day of a bilateral agreement on broad cooperation, and as nuclear talks were set to resume in Vienna.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his UK counterpart Liz Truss penned a joint piece published by the Daily Telegraph newspaper in which they discussed the upcoming inking of a memorandum of understanding. Lapid is currently in London for a two-day trip to the United Kingdom and France.

The two countries will “work night and day to prevent the Iranian regime from ever becoming a nuclear power,” they wrote, calling for other allies to join the effort.

“The clock is ticking, which heightens the need for close cooperation with our partners and friends to thwart Tehran’s ambitions,” they said.

“Many fear the skies are darkening worldwide due to the pandemic, the threat of terrorism and hostile actors seeking the upper hand,” the ministers wrote. “But we believe that with the right approach, freedom and democracy will prevail over malign forces.”

“We know the world has to be safe for freedom-loving democracies,” they added, noting the countries’ military cooperation in the form of joint air exercises and the July docking of British warship HMS Richmond at Haifa’s port.

The ministers also denounced a deadly attack last week by a Hamas terrorist in Jerusalem that killed an Israeli man, as well as an incident earlier in the month when the Israeli ambassador to the UK was forced to abandon her participation in a university debate due to raucous protests by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

“We stand united in condemning the appalling attacks on Israel and its representatives, from the shooting in Jerusalem last week by a Hamas militant to the unacceptable hounding of Israel’s ambassador Tzipi Hotovely outside the London School of Economics,” they wrote.

They praised the Abraham Accords, which normalized ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, saying there was “no greater sign of what can be achieved through open dialogue.”

The Israel-UK MOU, a 10-year plan, will cover defense, cybersecurity, trade and technology development.

Under its terms, Israel will officially become a “Tier One cyber partner” for the UK, Lapid and Truss explained. They said they will also work toward “a bespoke UK-Israel free trade agreement.”

Israel’s trade cooperation with the UK is worth £5 billion ($6.6 billion), the ministers said, and pointed out that Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva provides one-sixth of the prescription medicines used by the UK’s National Health Service.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset on November 8, 2021. (Oliver Fitoussi/Flash90)

European Union-sponsored negotiations aimed at saving an unraveling 2015 nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran were set to restart Monday in Vienna. Israel is reportedly pressing parties to the discussions, including the UK, to condition them on Tehran’s cessation of uranium enrichment.

Israeli officials have been increasingly sounding alarm bells over Iran’s nuclear program and the negotiations in recent weeks, with Jerusalem believing the 2015 deal is far too weak and ultimately paves the way to an Iranian nuclear weapon.

The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, was intended to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear arsenal by imposing strict limits on its nuclear program. It was signed between Iran and the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany.

In 2018 then-US president Donald Trump pulled out of the pact, reapplying stiff sanctions on Iran, which in response dropped some of its own commitments to the pact and significantly increased its uranium enrichment, raising concerns it is nearing nuclear weapons capabilities.

The United States will indirectly participate in the Vienna talks with US President Joe Biden’s administration saying it is willing to return the US to the accord.

But Iran has sparred with the UN’s nuclear agency and the US has voiced growing skepticism that a return to the deal will be possible amid Tehran’s intensifying violations.

AFP contributed to this report.

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