WASHINGTON – The US has been talking with Israel ahead of the upcoming Iran nuclear talks and will continue to do so, the State Department said.
“During the previous six rounds of indirect negotiations in Vienna, [we] have regularly briefed them [Israeli and Gulf partners] on the course of those discussions,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said at Tuesday’s press briefing. “And as we prepare for the resumption of those talks, the seventh round in Vienna, this is an opportunity to compare notes and to prepare for that seventh round.”
Price said that Special Envoy Rob Malley had “excellent engagements” with Israeli officials during his visit to Israel, and that “close consultation and coordination will continue as we get closer to November 29 and of course once those negotiations resume.”
Malley’s trip to the Middle East comes two weeks before the next round of Vienna talks, the first round of indirect negotiations since May.
Richard Goldberg, senior advisor to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, said that it’s important for the Biden administration to consult closely with key allies in the region before any engagement with Iran.
“So the fact that Malley is doing this trip is positive,” he said. “The question, of course, is whether he is checking a box for the diplomatic optics, or whether any of the concerns and objections he hears are being taken into consideration. To date, signs point to the former.”
Israel and the Gulf countries likely have a lot of questions to Malley, said Goldberg.
“Will the United States press forward with a resolution censuring Iran at the upcoming IAEA board meeting?” he asked. “Will there be a deadline to walk away from indirect talks with Iran and return to sanctions enforcement? Will the US entertain anything less than a return to JCPOA – that is, will Malley be open to negotiating a different deal that offers Iran sanctions relief for even more limited nuclear concessions than the JCPOA?”
Iran was also a matter of discussion between Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, when the two met at the State Department on Tuesday.
They discussed Iran and Middle East security issues, according to Roll’s office, as well as the regional potential of the Abraham Accords and the need to expand them. Roll thanked Sherman for the US friendship and support.
“The deputy secretary and the deputy foreign minister discussed the importance of the US-Israel partnership and regional security issues,” according to the State Department. “The deputy secretary reiterated the administration’s firm belief that Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and dignity. The deputy secretary also emphasized the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.”