Bennett calls for deadline in Iran nuclear talks, during meeting with German FM

Remarks come after Germany’s top envoy Annalena Baerbock tells Lapid that reviving agreement will make region safer, including for Israel

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock meets Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem, on February 10, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock meets Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem, on February 10, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during their meeting in Tel Aviv on Thursday that Israel believes a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran would be a danger to the region, Bennett’s office said in a statement.

Bennett also told Baerbock he believes a deadline must be set to end ongoing talks in Vienna between world powers and Iran to save the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and stressed that extending negotiations even as Iran continues to enrich uranium only serves Iranian interests.

As the two discussed security and regional challenges, and in particular the Iran nuclear deal, Bennett told Baerbock that restoring the JCPOA would be “a mistake that would endanger the entire region.”

The two met during Baerbock’s first official visit to the Jewish state and also discussed other regional matters and medical cooperation on COVID-19, the statement said.

His remarks come as negotiations between Iran and world powers reconvened this week in an effort to revive the 2015 nuclear accord that curbed Tehran’s nuclear program. That deal crumbled after the Trump administration withdrew from the agreement in 2018. The other parties still remaining in the deal are Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany.

Under Trump, the US reimposed heavy sanctions on Iran. Tehran has responded by increasing the purity and amounts of uranium it enriches and stockpiles, in breach of the accord.

Earlier in the day, during a joint press conference in Tel Aviv with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Baerbock declared that talks with Iran are entering a “final phase” and that, despite Israeli reservations, a return to a nuclear agreement would make the region safer.

Baerbock said that she was “convinced that a full restoration of the JCPOA would make the region more secure, including Israel, otherwise, we would not be having these talks.”

She said the talks with Iran, of which Germany is a party, have reached a “very critical point” and that it was important for Iran to come back to the table “with a willingness to compromise and without maximum demands.”

“We want to do everything we can to ensure that with this agreement, Israel’s security is guaranteed,” Baerbock said.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (left), and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid talk during a joint press conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, on February 10, 2022. (Oren Ziv/AP)

Lapid said that he and Baerbock discussed the nuclear talks and presented her with Israel’s position “that a nuclear Iran endangers not only Israel but the entire world.” He said that Iran is “an exporter of terror from Yemen to Buenos Aires” and that the agreement must take into account its regional aggression.

“The E3 countries cannot also ignore the threat posed by Iran beyond its nuclear program,” Lapid said, referring to the European countries involved in the Iranian nuclear deal negotiations.

“Iran is Hezbollah in the north, Iran is Hamas in the south, Iran is an exporter of terror from Yemen to Buenos Aires,” he said.

The meetings were moved from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv at the last minute because Bennett had a scheduling conflict, the Foreign Ministry said.

Israel and Iran are longtime foes and Israel has vocally objected to US-led efforts to revive the deal. Its leaders have said it would not be bound by any agreement between world powers and Iran, leaving it room to maneuver militarily.

Lapid added that in his meeting with Baerbock before the press conference, he spoke about the attempt by human rights organizations to label Israel as an apartheid state.

“This campaign is part of a larger campaign,” he said, “whose goal is to undermine Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

A journalist holds a copy of Amnesty International’s report ‘Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians,’ in Jerusalem, on February 1, 2022. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

Last week, Amnesty International published a report that accused Israel of discriminatory practices amounting to apartheid both within its internationally recognized borders and in the Palestinian territories.

German responded by rejecting the report’s use of the term “apartheid” and “a one-sided focusing of criticism on Israel.”

Baerbock, on her first visit to Israel as Germany’s top diplomat, landed in Israel late Wednesday night. Before her meeting Thursday, Baerbock visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem and laid a wreath at the site.

Israel was formed in the wake of the Holocaust in 1948 and only established diplomatic ties with Germany in 1965. Over the decades, those ties have warmed and Germany is now one of Israel’s closest and most important international allies and trade partners.

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