Israel tells UK and EU to drop ‘absurd’ backing for Iran nuclear deal

Israel tells UK and EU to drop ‘absurd’ backing for Iran nuclear deal

Netanyahu puts Dominic Raab under pressure over UK refusal to abandon nuclear agreement.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has urged Britain and other EU states to end what he described as their “outrageous and absurd” support for the Iran nuclear deal.

In talks in Jerusalem with Netanyahu and the Israeli foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, found himself under pressure over Britain’s decision to oppose the planned US “snapback”, or reinstatement, of all sanctions on Iran.

The US, with the support of Israel and the Gulf states, wants to ensure that a UN conventional arms embargo is not lifted in October as set out in the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015.

The recent agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalise relations was in part driven by a joint animus towards Iran, but the UK has refused to abandon the nuclear agreement partly in the hope that it can renegotiated and revived after the US elections in November.

Raab also met the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in Jerusalem on Monday night where the British were again tackled over their support for the Iran deal.

The timing made for an awkward backdrop for the two-day visit to Jerusalem by Raab, who has always prized close relations with the US, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Raab welcomed the rapprochement between Israel and the UAE as an important moment, especially since it includes an agreement by Netanyahu to suspend plans to annex the West Bank, seen by the British as a threat to a negotiated two-state solution.

The agreement has also been criticised for potentially making it harder to negotiate a comprehensive peace settlement since Israel will feel under even less exterior pressure to negotiate with the Palestinians.

Raab later travelled to Ramallah where he will meet the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

Raab said: “Israel’s suspension of annexation is an essential step towards a more peaceful Middle East. It is important to build on this new dynamic, and ultimately only the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority can negotiate the two-state solution required to secure lasting peace.”

Ashkenazi said after his meeting with Raab: “We were disappointed to see our friends, the E3 countries [UK, Germany, France], not voting to extend the arms embargo on Iran and thus prevent its adoption.”

The Israeli foreign minister said that when it came to Iran some UN security council members were undermining world security.

“The E3 must understand that genuine opposition to Iranian aggression and concern for the security of the region can not only be heard in statements but must also be seen in action,” he said.

Ashkenazi pointed out that Iran’s response to the announced normalisation between the United Arab Emirates and Israel was to threaten the UAE with an attack.

Netanyahu, who met Raab later, had described the EU decision as “absurd and outrageous”.

The US last Thursday invoked “snapback sanctions”, which are meant to automatically extend the embargo without the support of the security council. The E3, Russia and China wrote letters to the UN secretariat saying the US does not have the right to do so, because it left the the Iran deal in 2018.

Meanwhile, in Tehran, Rafael Grossi, the director general of the UN’s nuclear weapons inspectorate, the International Atomic Energy Agency, met Iranian officials to discuss improved access for his inspectors to Iran’s nuclear sites. The talks, separate to lifting to the UN conventional arms embargo, have centred on IAEA access to two Iranian nuclear sites that have been blocked for months. The talks appeared to have made progress.

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