JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised on Tuesday continued close consultation with Israel about any potential U.S. return to a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
After talks with Blinken in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped Washington would not sign back on to the deal, and that “whatever happens, Israel will always retain the right to defend itself” against any Iranian nuclear threat.
Indirect talks between Washington and Tehran, which denies its nuclear program is aimed at producing weapons, have been under way in Vienna.
Blinken, on a Middle East mission to try to shore up last week’s ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, said the United States would continue to strengthen its “long-standing partnership” with Israel.
That, he told reporters, with Netanyahu at his side, “includes consulting closely with Israel as we did today on the ongoing negotiations in Vienna around a potential return to the Iran nuclear agreement”.
To Israeli acclaim, U.S. President Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal, deeming it too advantageous for Tehran, and reimposed U.S. sanctions.
The Biden administration has since sought to assuage Israel which sees a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat.
On Sunday, Blinken said the United States has not seen yet whether Iran will move to comply with its nuclear commitments in order to have sanctions removed even as the talks have shown progress.
Israeli teams have held discussions in Washington with U.S. counterparts over the potential revival of the deal.
“I hope that the United States will not go back to the old JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) because we believe that deal paves the way for Iran to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons with international legitimacy,” Netanyahu said.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller, William Maclean)