Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Rome, Italy, on June 27. It was the first face-to-face diplomatic event between senior U.S. and Israeli officials since the formation of the new Israeli government. During the meeting, Lapid told Blinken that the differences between the two sides over the Iran nuclear deal “can be resolved quietly.
Lapid said “Israel has some serious reservations” about the Iran nuclear deal dealt with in Vienna. He added, “We believe that the way to discuss these differences is through direct and professional dialogue, not in a press conference.” Lapid, on his first trip as Israel’s foreign minister, said Jerusalem and Washington share the same goals, but the disagreement between the two sides is about how to achieve them.
Talks between the parties involved in the Iran nuclear deal began in the Austrian capital of Vienna on April 6 this year to discuss the resumption of U.S.-Iranian compliance, and six rounds of talks have been held so far. The U.S. will find it “very difficult” to return to the Iran nuclear deal if the talks drag on indefinitely, Blinken suggested during his visit to Paris on 25 April. In a joint press conference with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday, Blinken said, “Yes, there will be a moment when it will be very difficult to return to the standards set by the Iran nuclear deal.” He did not, however, give a deadline.
Le Drian likewise called on Iran to take decisive steps on the issue of saving the Iran nuclear deal, “and we expect a final decision from the Iranian government.” He stressed that “we are entering the final phase, the difficult phase, which requires courageous and strong decisions.” In this regard, he said he is “cautiously optimistic, but still optimistic.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, for his part, said via Twitter on the 26th that “out of a strong commitment to save an agreement that the U.S. is trying to undermine, Iran has been the most active party in Vienna, putting forward most of the draft proposals, still believing (that) an agreement is possible, if the U.S. decides to to abandon Trump’s failed tradition. Iran will not negotiate forever.”
Iranian Speaker Mohammad Ghalibaf also said on the 27th that Iran’s interim technical agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency on verification expired and that the Iranian side would not hand over video surveillance information from Iran’s nuclear facilities to the IAEA. The International Atomic Energy Agency on Friday asked Iran to respond on whether to extend the interim technical agreement again.
On the meeting with Blinken, Lapid stressed via Twitter that the United States is Israel’s most important and loyal ally and that the incoming administrations of both countries come from “a very long and strong tradition of close friendship and cooperation. Lapid said he plans to work to restore Israel’s bipartisan support in the United States, and to that end he has approached key Democratic and Republican leaders in recent days.
Lapid said, “I remind them all that Israel shares the most fundamental American values: freedom, democracy, free markets, the constant pursuit of peace. Secretary Blinken has been a great friend and a great partner in the struggle for those values.” He said to Blinken, “I look forward to working with you to expand the circle of peace in our region. This is the best way to bring stability and prosperity to the Middle East.”
Lapid also held talks that day with Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani. He is also scheduled to visit the UAE on Tuesday. This will be the Israeli minister’s first state visit to a Gulf country. The UAE and Bahrain established diplomatic relations with Israel in September last year in the framework of the Abraham Accords signed in Washington.
Lapid said the agenda for his meeting with Blinken also included the following multiple topics, “strengthening our ability to defend ourselves and working to reduce our conflict with the Palestinians, while making life better for Israelis and Palestinians.” During the meeting, Lapid sent prayers and condolences to the victims of a building collapse in the Miami-Dade County town of Cereside. Lapid also met that day with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio.