Wrapping up a three-day trip to London and Paris, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid emphasized to French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday Israel’s position that sanctions must not be removed from Iran, and that only a credible military threat will stop Tehran’s nuclear program.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the two spoke at length about the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, which kicked off Monday after a nearly six-month hiatus.
Lapid told Macron that Israel believes Iran is merely buying time at the talks in order to continue making progress in its nuclear program, and to gain relief from crippling economic sanctions. Israel’s top diplomat also emphasized the need to develop an effective Plan B if talks fail.
“After many years, Israel’s position is being heard and Israel’s position is firm,” he said. “Sanctions on Iran must not be removed. Sanctions must be tightened, a credible military threat must be applied, because only that will stop its nuclear race.”
Lapid’s talk with Macron came a day after the French leader spoke with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who demanded the lifting of sanctions as a first step to reentering the nuclear deal.
Lapid pledged that he, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and Foreign Minister Benny Gantz would continue to work to ensure that the world understands the Iranian nuclear threat.
The Foreign Ministry called the meeting “warm and long.”
Gantz is due in Washington, DC next week.
Macron and Lapid also spoke about expanding the economic and security bilateral relationship between the two countries.
European Union-sponsored negotiations aimed at saving an unraveling 2015 nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran started Monday in Vienna. Israel is reportedly pressing parties to the discussions, including the United Kingdom, to condition them on Tehran’s cessation of uranium enrichment.
The United States — which pulled out of the deal under former president Donald Trump — is only participating indirectly in the negotiations.
The Biden administration has repeatedly said that it would only lift sanctions in return for concrete and evident changes in Iran’s behavior, and that not all sanctions would be lifted.
Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian envoy to the international bodies in Vienna, said Tuesday that the US is ready to lift sanctions on Iran in order to pave the way for a return to the 2015 nuclear deal.
“The #US confirms its readiness to lift all #sanctions inconsistent with the #JCPOA in exchange for return of #Iran to full compliance with JCPOA,” tweeted Ulyanov of the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “But in multilateral diplomacy, the devil is in the details. The concrete list of sanctions to be lifted is subject to negotiations.”
Meanwhile, European diplomats indicated that talks on the Iranian nuclear deal are still in very early stages, reported Reuters.
According to the report, diplomats told reporters that negotiators are still waiting to see if the talks can pick back up where they left off in June, before they were suspended and before the election of the hardline Raisi.
Diplomats from France, the UK and Germany said that the issue of Iran’s centrifuges — which it is using to enrich uranium to levels way beyond that agreed to in the 2015 deal — remains an unresolved issue.
If Iran does not show it is serious about returning to negotiations, the talks could quickly stall, the diplomats reportedly said.
Iran ignored appeals from Western countries to restart the talks for several months, all the while strengthening the capabilities of its nuclear program in violation of the accord.