Israel and US aim to ‘prevent a nuclear Iran’, says FM Lapid ahead of Arab-Israeli summit
Israel and the United States will cooperate to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran despite disagreements over an emerging nuclear deal, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Sunday ahead of the start of a summit with four Arab countries.
“We have disagreements over a nuclear deal and its consequences, but open and honest dialogue is part of the strength of our friendship,” Lapid said in Jerusalem during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony. Blinken, who will also be attending the summit. .
“Israel and the United States will continue to work together to prevent a nuclear Iran,” Lapid said.
Washington’s top diplomat will try to deepen Arab-Israeli rapprochement at a summit in Israel’s Negev desert later on Sunday, where he could also face rejection of the emerging Iran nuclear deal and questions over the US-Russian struggle over Ukraine.
Kicking off a regional tour, Blinken will meet Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett before joining Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his counterparts from four Arab countries at the desert-based summit.
High on the agenda are the Iranian nuclear talks, about which Israel and the Gulf Arab states have expressed strong apprehensions, and Russia’s month-long invasion of Ukraine, a conflict in which Israel has become a potential mediator.
“I think he (Blinken) will hear a very strong stance (on Iran) from all countries (at the summit),” Eitan Naeh, Israel’s ambassador to Bahrain, told the Kan public broadcaster.
Attending will be the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, three Arab countries that were part of the so-called Abraham Accords brokered by the Trump administration in 2020 to normalize relations with Israel.
Egypt’s foreign minister, whose country celebrated 43 years of peace with Israel on Saturday, will also attend the summit.
The nuclear talks were close to an agreement several weeks ago until Russia made last-minute demands of the United States, insisting that the sanctions imposed on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine would not should not affect its trade with Iran.
Blinken’s visit comes at a time when ties with several Middle Eastern countries are facing challenges as key allies such as Israel and the United Arab Emirates question the Biden administration’s commitment to the region.
While Washington’s strategy has focused on China, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further complicated US foreign policy priorities, leaving it grappling with challenges on multiple fronts.
The venue for the foreign ministers’ meeting is Sde Boker, where Israel’s founding father and first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, retired and is buried. The isolated agricultural collective in the Negev desert has long been a symbol of Israeli innovation.
It will be an opportunity for delegates to hold talks in quiet time, an Israeli official involved in the planning said, calling it “our version of Camp David”.
Sde Boker may also have provided an uncontroversial alternative to Jerusalem, which Israel considers its capital – a status unrecognized by most countries in the absence of a resolution to Palestinian claims to the city.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)