WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday “time is running short” on an Iranian return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, but stressed in a joint press conference with Israel’s foreign minister that the U.S. believes “the diplomatic path is the most effective way to ensure” Tehran doesn’t acquire nuclear weapons.
“What we’re seeing from Tehran suggests that they’re not” ready to return to the nuclear deal, Blinken said. According to him, “we’re getting closer to a point where returning to full compliance with the JCPOA will not recapture” the benefits of the nuclear deal, which the U.S. withdrew from in 2018.
Israel’s Yair Lapid said, “Every day that passes, every delay in the negotiations, brings Iran closer to a nuclear bomb. If a terror regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon, we must act. We must make clear that the civilized world won't allow it.”
Also on Wednesday, European diplomats said that a pending visit to Tehran by the European Union coordinator for talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal cannot be deemed "business as usual" given escalating Iranian nuclear activities and the stalling of negotiations since June.
Enrique Mora, the EU's political director, is due to hold talks on Thursday with members of Iran's nuclear negotiating team four months after talks broke off between Iran and world powers, including the United States, to rescue the accord.
"The visit comes at an important time," the diplomats from Britain, Germany and France, known as the E3, said in a note on Wednesday. "The situation in the nuclear field has been worsening and been aggravated continuously since then," they said, alluding to Iran's accelerating enrichment of uranium to higher fissile purity, a possible pathway to a nuclear bomb.
Lapid met his American and Emirati counterparts for a three-way meeting in Washington, a year after Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalized ties in a U.S.-brokered deal.
A bilateral meeting between Lapid and U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken is slated for later on Wednesday.
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Blinken, Lapid and the UAE's Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan met to advance regional economic cooperation and discuss other regional issues.
In a briefing to reporters before the trilateral meeting, U.S. officials reiterated that the Abraham Accords, signed during the Trump presidency, were not a substitute for a two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The Abraham Accords were signed by leaders of Israel, the UAE and Bahrain at the White House last September, later followed by Morocco. Sudan also declared its intention to normalize ties with Israel, but a formal agreement has yet to be signed.
The agreements came despite the Palestinians' opposition, who felt betrayed by their Arab brethren for cooperating with Israel without first demanding progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
Reuters contributed to this report.