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Lapid: ‘Bad’ nuclear pact with Iran worse than no deal at all

Foreign minister says Israel would back a ‘good’ agreement to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear arms, but tightened sanctions would still be better than reviving the 2015 JCPOA

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset, on October 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset, on October 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel would prefer that the US and other powers walk away from nuclear talks with Iran rather than pursue a “bad deal,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in comments published Thursday.

Lapid told The New York Times that the best case scenario was what he called a “good deal” with Iran, appearing to give rare backing to negotiations on reviving the 2015 nuclear pact that Jerusalem has largely dismissed as an Iranian delaying tactic.

“We have no problem with a deal. A good deal is a good thing,” Lapid said.

“Second best would be no deal but tightening the sanctions and making sure Iran cannot go forward. And the third and worst is a bad deal,” he added.

There were no details of what a good or bad deal would constitute, beyond removing so-called sunset provisions from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will allow safeguards to expire in 2025, and making the pact into something that will permanently keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

Talks to revive the deal will resume on Monday, the EU diplomat chairing the negotiations said on Thursday, urging a “picking up of the pace.”

Officials have said the deal would become obsolete within weeks if Iran continued to step up its nuclear activities as it has been doing since 2019, a year after the United States left the landmark agreement and reimposed sanctions.

Negotiations restarted in November after a five-month hiatus to try to restore the deal, which offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

People walk past Palais Coburg, where closed-door nuclear talks are taking place in Vienna, Austria, December 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Gruber)

Diplomats from parties to the deal — China, Britain, France, Germany and Russia — are in talks in Vienna with Iran and the US, with the two sides refusing direct contact.

US negotiator Rob Malley on Tuesday warned of a “period of escalating crisis” if diplomacy failed to restore the agreement.

Israel is not a party to the talks but has threatened force if diplomacy fails, and the US has also said it is preparing “alternatives.”

“We have the right to protect ourselves from the biggest existential threats,” Lapid said in the newspaper interview, which was conducted Wednesday.

He also said that normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia or Indonesia was on the backburner, but said discussions on forging diplomatic ties were being held with “a few countries.”

Israeli officials have repeatedly claimed that more countries will soon join the Abraham Accords, which saw the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco establish varying degrees of ties with Israel last year, but none so far have come forward.

AFP contributed to this report.

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