WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Friday. According to the State Department, the two discussed a range of topics, “including the enduring importance of the US-Israel bilateral relationship, Israeli-Palestinian issues, and regional developments, such as our shared conviction that Iran must not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lapid told Blinken that “even if there is a return to negotiations, sanctions on Iran must not be lifted. The money the Iranians will receive will reach our doorstep in the form of terrorism and missiles.” The conversation was “warm, productive, and open,” Israel’s MFA said in a readout.
“Among the topics of conversation were joint efforts to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state, Minister Lapid’s visit to Cairo, the arrival of the new US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, and expanding the circle of peace,” the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
On Thursday, Ned Price, the State Department Spokesperson said that the US remains focused on diplomacy “to see if it can deliver a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” According to Price, the US continues to believe that a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA is possible.
He went on to say that “Iran’s escalations of its nuclear activities, the intransigence that it has shown, including most recently in Vienna last week, will put to the test whether diplomacy can be able to achieve that mutual return to compliance.”
“I wouldn’t want to speak to what we might be contemplating if the path to diplomacy towards a mutual return to compliance isn’t viable in the near term,” he continued. “But we are discussing those alternatives. We are discussing those options with our close partners, with our close allies, and that includes with the Israelis. We have already had good discussions with the Israelis about the path forward and how we can work together to ensure that Iran is never able to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
Speaking about international sanctions on Iran, Price said that, “all of our current sanctions remain in effect. They will remain in effect until and unless we’re able to reach a diplomatic agreement.” He also addressed a question about reports which indicate that the Iranians are using the negotiations as a tactic to gain more time in moving ahead with enriching uranium.
“It is a concern that we share,” said Price. “It’s a concern that we have as well as a concern that our P5+1 partners have. It is precisely why we have been very clear that Iran will not be able to play for time, that Iran’s nuclear escalations and its provocations won’t give Iran any additional leverage in these negotiations. The only thing these provocations and these escalations will do is to bring us closer to the point of a potential crisis. And we are not looking for a crisis.”
“We certainly hope the Iranians aren’t looking for a crisis,” he continued. “We are looking, at the moment, to diplomacy and the possibility that it still has - we believe – to deliver a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, which, as we’ve said, is the best approach to ensure on a durable, permanent basis, verifiable basis, that Iran is not able to acquire a nuclear weapon. So if that’s Iran’s strategy, it’s a strategy that will fail.”
Asked what he had to say to critics that are saying that this a policy of appeasement or weakness, Price said: “If the Iranian regime suspects the United States of weakness, they will be sorely surprised.”