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Gantz to Kamala Harris: Iran nuke deal must include ‘consistent enforcement’ by IAEA

Defense chief meets with US veep on sidelines of Munich conference, amid expectations world powers and Iran may soon reach agreement to restore 2015 nuclear pact opposed by Israel

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with US Vice President Kamala Harris during the Munich Security Conference, on February 19, 2022.  (Courtesy/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with US Vice President Kamala Harris during the Munich Security Conference, on February 19, 2022. (Courtesy/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz met Saturday with US Vice President Kamala Harris on the sidelines of the annual Munich Security Conference.

Saturday’s meeting with Harris focused on the issue of ongoing Iran nuclear talks, as well as the situation in Ukraine, according to Gantz.

“I expressed my gratitude to US President Biden and the VP for their commitment to preventing a nuclear Iran. I told her that any future agreement must include consistent enforcement by the IAEA in addition to handling the open files in the nuclear program,” Gantz said in a statement.

“I also thanked her for the United States’ important role in maintaining stability in the Middle East, in the face of regional aggression perpetrated by Iran and its proxies,” he said.

“We also discussed the importance of expanding the Abraham Accords, the situation in Ukraine, and the importance of confidence-building measures with the Palestinians. I updated the VP [on] steps I plan to take in order to deepen cooperation with our neighbors in the region,” he added.

A White House official told The Times of Israel that Harris and Gantz “reaffirmed the strength of US-Israel relationship and discussed our efforts to address the threat posed by Iran and its proxies.”

The meeting marked the second time Harris has met with a senior Israeli official since taking office. In October, she met with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid during his visit to Washington.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with US Vice President Kamala Harris during the Munich Security Conference, on February 19, 2022. (Courtesy/Defense Ministry)

Earlier in the day, Gantz met with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the conference.

“We covered a range of challenges on the agenda, first and foremost the critical need to stop Iran’s regional aggression and nuclear ambitions,” he wrote on Twitter.

The defense minister said he thanked Baerbock, who visited Israel earlier this month, “for her commitment to the strong bond and cooperation between Israel and Germany.”

Gantz also met Saturday with the Greek prime minister and country’s defense minister; Finland’s defense minister; and Georgia’s prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister.

Israel is readying for world powers and Iran to reach an agreement next week to revive the deal aimed at curbing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, Israeli television reported Friday, despite Jerusalem’s efforts to lobby against a joint US-Iranian return to the multilateral accord.

A police car approaches the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, Germany, on February 19, 2022, on the second day of the Munich Security Conference. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Gantz has previously said he was prepared to accept a scenario in which the US negotiates a fresh nuclear deal with Iran, not rejecting such a multilateral accord out of hand.

“I support an agreement that will be broader, stronger and longer — taking Iran back, dismantling its current capabilities and placing effective inspections on its sites and on its weapons production,” he said in November.

Israel opposed the original agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, when it was signed in 2015, with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu arguing that it actually paved the path to an Iranian nuclear arsenal.

The Netanyahu government then backed former US president Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the deal in 2018 and initiate a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, which led Tehran to ramp up nuclear work in violation of the JCPOA.

US President Joe Biden is now seeking to revive the accord, on the condition that Iran will return to compliance.

The eighth round of Vienna talks — which involve Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia directly, and the US indirectly — resumed in late November.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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