Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid whispers to his predecessor Naftali Bennett at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday

Israeli PM heads to Berlin to oppose Iran deal

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid whispers to his predecessor Naftali Bennett at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday – Copyright WanNaiks Gallery/AFP Handout

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid flew to Germany on Sunday as part of his latest diplomatic effort to persuade Western powers to back out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Israel has long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, which has been dying since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018 and re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran.

The momentum created last month to restore the agreement appears to have slowed after the three European countries that are parties to the agreement – Germany, France and the UK – on Saturday expressed “serious doubts” about Iran’s sincerity in restoring the agreement.

Meeting with his cabinet before flying to Berlin, Lapid thanked the three powers for the “firm position” they voiced in a tripartite statement on Saturday.

Those powers said that Tehran “decided not to take advantage of this crucial diplomatic opportunity,” adding that “instead, Iran continues to escalate its nuclear program far beyond any plausible civilian justification.”

Lapid told his cabinet that “Israel is pursuing a successful diplomatic campaign to stop the nuclear deal and prevent the lifting of sanctions on Iran.

“This is not the end yet,” he added. “There is still a long way to go, but there are encouraging signs.”

An Israeli diplomat, who asked not to be named, told AFP that Iran will be the focus of the talks when the delegation arrives in Berlin.

“It is important to continue to coordinate positions and influence the European position. Germany plays an important role in this,” the official said.

Lapid, who traveled with senior security officials, is due to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Foreign Minister Annalena Burbock and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier before returning to Israel late Monday evening.

The 2015 agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, provided for the relaxation of sanctions against Iran in exchange for curtailing its nuclear program.

Negotiations ongoing in Vienna since April 2021 aimed to restore the agreement by lifting sanctions on Tehran and forcing Iran to fully comply with its previous nuclear obligations.

Last month, the European Union, which is mediating the talks, put forward a “final” draft agreement.

Iran and the US then took turns responding to the text, with Washington saying on Friday that Tehran’s response was a step “backward.”

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