An Israeli delegation headed by National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen will arrive in Washington on Monday for a final round of talks with senior U.S. officials over the nuclear deal unfolding between the world powers and Iran. The deadline for the nuclear agreement is set for June 30.
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A senior Israeli official said that Cohen will meet with White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice, as well as the head negotiators representing the U.S. in the talks with Iran. Aside from Cohen, the Israeli delegation will consist of experts from the National Security Council in the Prime Minister's Office, the Foreign Ministry, the Atomic Energy Commission and the defense establishment, who will meet their counterparts on the U.S. negotiating team.
According to the official, one of the delegation's goals is to discuss the technical components of the unfolding nuclear agreement and make final attempts to point out elements that require improvement as well as holes that should be closed in the last two weeks of negotiations with the Iranians.
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his objection to the unfolding deal, saying that the agreement will pave Iran's way to a nuclear bomb and will funnel tens of billions of dollars into the Tehran regime's coffers that would be used to purchase weapons and arm Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
"I know I’m often portrayed as the nuclear party pooper," Netanyahu said. "And that would be okay if I was the only voice against the impending deal with Iran. But I speak with quite a few of our neighbors, more than you think, and I want to tell you that nobody in this region believes this deal will block Iran’s path to the bomb."
The delegation's trip to Washington is part of efforts to bolster communication between Israel and the U.S. over the Iran deal as the June 30 deadline nears. Haaretz reported on Tuesday that CIA Director John Brennan came to Israel last week for a secret visit dealing with the nuclear talks. This week Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, is in Israel to discuss the issue as well. Dempsey met with Netanyahu on Thursday morning.
Israel is also holding talks with European states which are party to the nuclear negotiations. Cohen, the national security adviser, traveled to Paris and London last week and met with France and Britain's chief negotiators. Cohen has also been in touch over the phone with the European Union's representative to the negotiations, Helga Schmid, who is responsible for drafting the nuclear agreement on behalf of the world powers.
The negotiations between Iran and the world powers have been taking place in Vienna since mid-May practically without interruption. The talks are primarily held between nuclear experts, as well as experts on sanctions, from Iran and the six world powers.
On Thursday, the chief negotiators from both sides will arrive in Vienna to join the talks for the next few days. It is as yet unclear whether the negotiations will go up a level toward the last week of June, to involve foreign ministers. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's recent bicycle injury will make it difficult for him to physically take part in the negotiations.
On Wednesday, a senior U.S. official told reporters in Washington that the round of talks that is slated to begin Thursday will be "pretty tough" as the negotiators get "down to the details."
According to the official, one of the key issues which are being discussed is the scope of access that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will gain to various Iranian facilities, including military bases.
"We know there will not be an agreement until we can resolve that the IAEA will be able to verify whatever way is appropriate, whatever is necessary for this agreement, and that will include having managed access to a variety of sites and places in order to get this deal done," the official said.