Netanyahu heads to Berlin, Paris next week for talks expected to focus on Iran
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Netanyahu heads to Berlin, Paris next week for talks expected to focus on Iran

PM will meet with Merkel and Macron for first time since US withdrawal from nuclear deal, a move opposed by Germany and France

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak at a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, on February 16, 2016, after a joint cabinet meeting. (AFP /Odd Andersen)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak at a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, on February 16, 2016, after a joint cabinet meeting. (AFP /Odd Andersen)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Paris and Berlin next week, his office said Sunday, with talks expected to focus on Iran.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu will fly to Germany on June 4 to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, before traveling later that day to France for talks with President Emmanuel Macron. He will return to Israel on June 6.

The meetings will be Netanyahu’s first with Merkel and Macron since US President Donald Trump’s decision earlier this month to pull out of the 2015 deal, designed to limit Iran’s nuclear program, and reimpose sanctions.

While welcomed by Netanyahu, who said the accord did not sufficiently prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons or address its support for regional terror groups, the US withdrawal was opposed by France and Germany, which both signed the deal and have expressed opposition to the reinstatement of US sanctions on firms operating in Iran.

The two countries, along with fellow signatories Britain, Russia and China, are now seeking to salvage the accord, with Iran demanding economic guarantees for its continued compliance.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands during a joint news conference following their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on December 10, 2017. (AFP/ Pool/ Philippe Wojazer)

Also expected to feature prominently in Netanyahu’s meetings with Macron and Merkel are Iran’s military presence in Syria and alleged efforts to set up weapons factories in Lebanon for the Hezbollah terror group.

Netanyahu addressed the two issues during Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.

“We are working to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. At the same time, we are working against the establishment of an Iranian military presence against us; to this end we are also operating against the transfer of deadly weapons from Syria to Lebanon or their manufacture in Lebanon,” he said.

Netanyahu did not specify what action was being taken against the arms in Lebanon.

A photograph of an Israeli F-35 stealth fighter jet flying over the Lebanese capital of Beirut that apparently was leaked to Israel’s Hadashot news. (Screen capture)

Israel has reportedly carried out dozens of airstrikes against targets in Syria, including Iranian military installations, but has mostly refrained from carrying out attacks in Lebanon, where Hezbollah is a major player in the country’s government.

Israel’s airstrikes in recent months on Iran-backed military sites in Syria, which it rarely admits to openly, have led to increased tensions in the northern border region and earlier this month saw a barrage of several dozen missiles fired at northern Israel, apparently by Iranian-backed forces, drawing a massive Israeli reprisal attack.

Netanyahu told his cabinet meeting that the fighting with Iran, which had calmed in recent days, was not over.

“The Tehran regime is the main factor undermining stability in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem. “The campaign against its aggression has not ended; we are still in it.”

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