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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Israel’s Lapid speaks with Biden about Iran nuclear agreement

The two also discussed regional developments including "Iran's terrorist activity in the Middle East and beyond".

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid discussed Iran’s nuclear deal with US President Joe Biden Wednesday, as the Jewish state makes concerted efforts to block a return to the 2015 accord.

Israel has long opposed a revival of the deal, which was left hanging by a thread when then US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 and reimposed biting sanctions on Tehran.

With momentum building to restore the agreement, Israel has waged a last-minute push to convince allies to halt talks.

This campaign has seen its defence minister and security adviser both visit Washington, and its spy chief is due to do so next week.

Read more: The shadow intelligence war between Israel and Iran

Lapid and Biden “spoke at length about the negotiations on a nuclear agreement, and the various efforts to stop Iran’s progress towards a nuclear weapon”, a statement from the premier’s office said.

The two also discussed regional developments including “Iran’s terrorist activity in the Middle East and beyond”, the statement added.

“In this context, the Prime Minister commended the President on the United States’ most recent strikes in Syria,” where the regime in Damascus receives backing from Tehran.

Last week US forces launched air and artillery strikes in eastern Syria that killed four militants.

Biden later said the strikes aimed “to deter the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iran-backed militia groups from conducting or supporting further attacks on United States personnel and facilities”.

During Wednesday’s call, Biden “emphasised his deep commitment to the security of the State of Israel, and to preserving its ability to face any enemy or threat”, the Israeli statement said.

Lapid told journalists last week that the existing plans to restore the 2015 agreement — which involve granting Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme — represent “a bad deal”.

“It would give Iran $100 billion a year” that would be used by Iran-backed militant groups Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, Lapid added.

A White House statement said Biden and Lapid had also discussed negotiations to resolve border issues between Israel and Lebanon.

“The President also emphasised the importance of concluding the maritime boundary negotiations between Israel and Lebanon in the coming weeks,” the US statement said.

Lebanon and Israel, whose border is UN-patrolled, have no diplomatic relations.

They resumed maritime border negotiations in 2020 but the process was stalled by Beirut’s claim that the map used by the United Nations in the talks needed modifying.

Read more: US, Israel sign security pact to stop Iran’s nuclear bomb

Lebanon initially demanded 860 square kilometres (330 square miles) in the disputed maritime area but then asked for an additional 1,430 square kilometres, including part of the Karish offshore gas field.

Israel claims the field lies in its waters and is not part of the disputed area subject to ongoing negotiations.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk