DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Bahrain’s crown prince spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday about the return to nuclear talks with Iran, Bahrain’s state-run news agency reported, as the new US administration tries to revive the tattered 2015 nuclear accord.
Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, also the country’s prime minister, stressed to Netanyahu “the importance of the participation of regional countries in any negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file” to support “security and stability in the region,” according to the official Bahrain News Agency.
The statement marks the first response from a Gulf Arab leader to US President Joe Biden’s announcement earlier this month that he was seeking a return to nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Nearly three years ago, former US president Donald Trump abandoned the landmark accord and reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran. His withdrawal was welcomed by Gulf nations and Israel, Iran’s foes in the region that are most directly threatened and staunchly opposed the deal.
The sheikhdoms in the Persian Gulf, along with Israel, were excluded from the last nuclear negotiations and remain highly skeptical of Iran’s intentions. They have indicated they would only be open to a deal if it included limits on Iran’s non-nuclear activities, including missile development and support for rebel groups and militias in the Middle East. A main reason Trump gave for withdrawing from the nuclear deal was that it did not address those issues.
In Thursday’s call, the Bahraini crown prince urged that any nuclear negotiations with Iran “include broader issues,” without elaborating.
The readout from Israel said the crown prince repeated his invitation for Netanyahu to visit Bahrain once the pandemic allows and that the kingdom is interested in investing jointly with other countries in a vaccine production factory planned to be located in Israel.
Following the United Arab Emirates, the island kingdom of Bahrain normalized relations with Israel last fall, an agreement forged out of mutual enmity for Iran.
On Wednesday Axios reported that Jerusalem and Washington will launch strategic discussions on Iran in the coming days that will focus on the two nations’ intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program.
The sides are planning quiet dialogue in a bid to avoid a public fight over US policy on Iran under Biden’s new administration, the news site said.
It said the US and Israel are set to reconvene the working group on Iran, first set up under the Obama administration, which will be led by the national security advisers of both nations — Israel’s Meir Ben-Shabbat and Washington’s Jake Sullivan.