Lapid said to tell US envoy: Iran has no intention of rejoining nuke deal

Robert Malley also meets with Gantz, slated to meet Mossad chief, but not PM Bennett; Washington’s UN envoy Thomas-Greenfield meets Herzog, discusses Abraham Accords with Lapid

Robert Malley, US Special Envoy for Iran, in Vienna, Austria, on June 20, 2021. (AP/ Florian Schroetter)
Robert Malley, US Special Envoy for Iran, in Vienna, Austria, on June 20, 2021. (AP/ Florian Schroetter)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met Monday with Rob Malley, the US special envoy on Iran, during the latter’s visit to the region, as the Biden administration works to coordinate with Mideast allies before the resumption of indirect talks with Tehran, aimed at reviving their multilateral nuclear accord.

Lapid reiterated Israel’s position that Iran is simply trying to buy time with negotiations over its nuclear program until the issue of rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal is no longer relevant, according to the Ynet news site.

The foreign minister reportedly told Malley that Iran has no intention of actually returning to the deal, which the US pulled out of in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump.

Malley, who landed in Israel on Monday morning, also met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and was slated to meet Mossad chief David Barnea.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will not be meeting with Malley, as the latter did not request such a sit-down, the Walla news site reported. Other Hebrew media reports said Bennett was not meeting Malley because protocol did not require it, but also noted that the prime minister opposes the US effort to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

Malley is currently on a 10-day tour of the Middle East with stops in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.

Monday’s trip was Malley’s first to Israel as a member of US President Joe Biden’s administration, though he has met multiple times with Israeli officials in Washington. Malley — one of the original architects of the JCPOA — has rarely seen eye-to-eye with Israeli officials on the matter, given Jerusalem’s longstanding opposition to the deal.

Also visiting Israel for her first time Monday was US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who met with a number of senior Israeli officials and was, unlike Malley, slated to meet with Bennett.

Speaking to press at the opening of their meeting, Lapid said Thomas-Greenfield was a “true friend of Israel, who fights shoulder-to-shoulder with us at one of the most complicated international forums.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, right, meets with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield on November 15, 2021. (Asi Efrati/ GPO)

Following the meeting, she said on Twitter that she was “encouraged to hear about the tangible progress of the Abraham Accords during my meeting with Yair Lapid. The United States will continue to encourage countries in the region to normalize relations and expand cooperation with Israel, including at the UN.”

According to Herzog’s office, the president thanked Thomas-Greenfield for “standing by Israel’s side at the United Nations, including during Operation Guardian of the Walls.”

And following a meeting with Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, Thomas-Greenfield tweeted: “Like @POTUS, [Michaeli] knows infrastructure is a national security issue. And I applaud her work to advance gender equality in all areas of society.”

Thomas-Greenfield also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem.

“I was deeply moved by my first visit to Yad Vashem Thank you to all those involved in creating this institution devoted to Holocaust remembrance and education and to combating Holocaust denial and distortion,” she tweeted after the trip.

She is also slated to meet with Palestinian officials in the West Bank and is scheduled to later travel to Jordan.

Malley last spoke publicly on efforts to revive the JCPOA last month when he told reporters in a briefing that Iran’s explanations for staying away from nuclear talks in Vienna were “wearing thin.”

Days later, Tehran announced its readiness to return to the negotiation table at the end of November.

Last week, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman and top negotiator in the nuclear talks, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said the Islamic Republic will continue its actions in breach of the nuclear deal until it is assured the US will lift its crippling sanctions in a verifiable manner.

The date of November 29 has been set for restarting talks in Vienna to save the JCPOA after a five-month gap in negotiations that began when Iran elected hardline President Ebrahim Raisi.

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