Israeli defence minister heads to US to discuss Iran talks

AFP , Wednesday 2 Jun 2021

Israel opposes the deal, which it says could enable the Islamic republic to develop nuclear arms

Blinken - Gantz
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Minister Benny Gantz move to take their seats before their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Jerusalem, Israel AP

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz was heading to the United States for a one-day visit on Thursday to discuss ongoing efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel opposes.

He was to meet his counterpart Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan "for strategic dialogue on the emerging nuclear agreement with Iran," his office said.

Global powers have been meeting in Vienna since early April in a bid to bring Washington back to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which the United States left under then president Donald Trump in 2018.

The US withdrawal and re-imposition of sanctions led to Iran stepping up its nuclear activities.

US President Joe Biden, has signalled his readiness to revive the nuclear deal.

Israel opposes the deal, which it says could enable the Islamic republic to develop nuclear arms.

Tehran maintains that its nuclear programme is peaceful.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday reiterated that Israel would not hesitate to risk its good ties with its closest ally the US to defend itself against a nuclear-armed Iran.

"If we need to choose -- and I hope it will not happen -- between friction with our great friend, the US, and getting rid of an existential threat, getting rid of an existential threat will prevail," he said.

Following Netanyahu's remarks, Gantz said that while Iran was a "threat to regional security and global peace," the United States was "Israel's most important ally".

Gantz -- who is now part of an alliance of Israeli politicians seeking to topple Netanyahu -- added in a statement: "Even if differences arise, they will be resolved through direct dialogue, behind closed doors, not through provocative statements that serve to harm Israeli security."

During his Washington trip, Gantz was also to discuss Israel's "qualitative military edge" and maintaining "Middle East stability", the defence minister's office said.

"The officials will further review the Israel ministry of defence's plan for achieving long-term quiet in Gaza" and recovering Israel's soldiers missing in action and hostages, his office said.

In Israel's latest 11-day military campaign on Gaza Strip, 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed, health officials there said.

Rockets and other fire from Gaza from May 10 to 21 claimed 13 lives in Israel, medics said.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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