Opposing Nuclear Talks, Bennett Won't Meet With U.S. Envoy on Iran

Robert Malley, however, will be meeting with officials at the Prime Minister's Office, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, with Bahrain's foreign minister earlier this month.
The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, with Bahrain's foreign minister earlier this month.Credit: AFP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will not meet with the Biden administration’s special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, due to the American's efforts to revive the nuclear talks between Tehran and the world powers.

"Bennett isn’t boycotting Malley. He believes that returning to the [negotiating] table isn't the right thing to do," a source close to the prime minister said, adding that "Malley is promoting this approach" in the Biden administration.

According to another Israeli official, Malley is not senior enough to be meeting with a prime minister or president during his visit to the region.

Malley, however, will meet with officials at the Prime Minister's Office, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Malley is already in the Middle East, where he is visiting Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in advance of a new round of talks aimed at reviving the Iranian nuclear deal.

Bennett's decision was first published in the Hebrew version of the free daily Israel Hayom.

Bennett, however, is expected to meet this week with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who recently expressed support for renewing the nuclear agreement with Tehran.

"We believe that a mutual return to JCPOA compliance would restore the nonproliferation achievements of the deal," Thomas-Greenfield told reporters over the weekend, referring to the nuclear agreement.

"President Biden has made clear that the United States is firmly committed to ensuring Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon," Thomas-Greenfield added.

In her visit to Israel this week, Thomas-Greenfield will be accompanied by Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan.

Malley is leading an interagency team to the four countries he is visiting, to “hold consultations with partners and attend a series of regional engagements,” the State Department said.

Last month, Malley warned that efforts to resume compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal were in a "critical phase," saying Tehran's reasons for not resuming talks were wearing thin.

Speaking to reporters in a conference call, Malley said that while Washington was increasingly worried that Tehran would keep delaying its return to the talks, it had other tools to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and would use them if necessary.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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