‘Sanctions on Iran must not be lifted,’ Lapid tells Blinken

FM speaks with US counterpart day after nuclear talks resume, says sanctions relief will be used for Iranian ‘terror and missiles’ against Israel

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on October 13, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on October 13, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke by phone Friday with United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, calling for sanctions on Iran to remain in force following fresh talks on restoring the 2015 accord curbing Tehran’s nuclear program.

“Even if the negotiations resume, sanctions on Iran must not be lifted. The money the Iranians receive will arrive at our doorstep in the form of terror and missiles,” Lapid was quoted as saying in a statement from his office.

He warned that regional stability would also soon be undermined if Iran is granted sanctions relief.

The statement said the foreign minister and his American counterpart also discussed the arrival in Israel of new US Ambassador Thomas Nides, Lapid’s trip to Egypt this week and “expanding the circle of peace,” referring to normalization between the Jewish state and Arab countries.

There was no immediate readout of the call from the US State Department.

Lapid’s conversation with Lapid came a day after nuclear talks resumed in Vienna following a few days’ pause, though they ended after an hour as tensions remained high over Iranian demands last week that Western countries strongly criticized.

The Palais Coburg, where closed-door Iran nuclear talks take place, reflected in a window in Vienna, Austria, on December 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Gruber)

The deal’s remaining signatories are Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

The US has participated indirectly in the ongoing talks because it withdrew from the accord in 2018 under then-US president Donald Trump. US President Joe Biden has signaled that he wants to rejoin the deal.

Last week’s talks were the first in over five months, a gap caused by a new hard-line government assuming power in Tehran.

The accord sealed in Vienna in 2015, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was meant to rein in Iran’s nuclear program in return for loosened economic sanctions.

Following the US decision to withdraw and reimpose sanctions against Iran, Tehran has ramped up its nuclear program again by enriching uranium beyond the thresholds allowed in the agreement. Iran has also restricted monitors from the United Nations atomic watchdog from accessing its nuclear facilities, raising concerns about what the country is doing out of view.

Meanwhile, Israeli and American military leaders are set to discuss possible military drills to practice destroying Iranian nuclear facilities in a potential worst-case scenario, a senior US official said.

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