US, Israel hold bilateral talks on Iran, security & diplomacy

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In a significant development, senior officials from the United States and Israel on Thursday held the first strategic consultations under the President Biden administration. US NSA (National Security Advisor) Jake Sullivan and Israeli NSA Meir Ben-Shabbat led their respective delegations during the virtual meeting of the US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group.

As per a statement issued by the White House, the two sides held discussions on regional security issues of mutual interest and concerns. At the same time, they held talks concerning Iran while expressing determination towards confronting any security threats and challenges in the region. “The National Security Advisors agreed on the importance of strategic interagency consultations and pledged to continue to these engagements,” the statement read.

This development has come amid US President Biden’s attempts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the 2015 Iran Nuclear deal in order to ensure America’s return to the agreement. Reportedly, there has been no major breakthrough in Biden’s efforts as Washington has maintained that it would return to the deal only if Tehran would comply with its terms. On the other hand, Tehran has called on the US to lift sanctions on Iran in order to begin talks over the deal. Amid this deadlock, Tehran has been stockpiling and enriching uranium with the aim of enhancing its nuclear programme.

Evidently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has campaigned against President Joe Biden’s plan for the return of the US to the Iran nuclear deal. On several occasions, the Israeli Prime Minister has expressed displeasure over the US President’s support towards the Iran Nuclear Deal. In January 2021, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had said that it would be a “mistake” for the United States to return to the Iran nuclear deal.

On the contrary, President Biden has prioritised America’s return to the deal with the aim of furthering restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme. During his election campaign, Biden had vowed with confidence to take the US back to the deal. On February 18, the Biden administration launched the initial steps for talks with the Iranian government over the deal with the support of the European Union. However, Tehran ended up demanding the US to remove sanctions to further the negotiations for the deal.

Meanwhile, during an interview earlier this week, US envoy for Iran Robert Malley has said that the US is not looking to rush to renew the nuclear deal before the June elections in Iran.

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