Looming Putin-brokered Iran nuclear deal tied to Israel PM’s urgent weekend diplomacy

by WorldTribune Staff, March 6, 2022

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday held talks with both Russian leader Vladimir Putin Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Israeli Prime Minister Neftali Bennett, left, with Russian leader Vladimir Putin / Israeli Government Press Office

In a nearly three-hour conversation with Putin at the Kremlin, Bennett reportedly asked the Russian strongman to ensure the safety of Ukraine’s Jewish population and also discussed international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. Bennett’s visit came amid reports that Russia had threatened to derail efforts to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a pact that Israel opposes but the Biden administration is pushing hard for.

Russia has reportedly played a central role in negotiating the restoration of the deal between the U.S. and Iran. However on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov demanded guarantees from Washington that Western sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine won’t disrupt trade between Russia and Iran under a restored nuclear agreement.

“Israel has long opposed the 2015 pact and is pressing its partners to ensure that if the deal is restored, pressure is kept on Iran to fully cooperate with international inspectors in Iran and to ensure Iran doesn’t cheat,” the Wall Street Journal reported on Bennett’s mediation efforts.

Bennett’s meeting with Putin took place “with the blessing of the U.S. administration,” said Bennett’s office, which also noted that it coordinated with Germany and France.

While charging that Russia had become a “pariah on the world stage” for invading Ukraine, Team Biden is at the same time scrambling to keep the lines of communications open with Moscow, which has been instrumental in efforts to revive the nuclear deal with Iran.

Related: Russia now a ‘pariah’ for Team Biden except on one strategic issue: Iran nuclear deal, March 1, 2022

Bennett, “an observant Jew, flew to Moscow during the Sabbath, underlining the urgent nature of his mission,” the Journal report noted.

Israel “has worked to maintain good relations with the Kremlin and has been keen not to anger Moscow during the conflict,” the Journal report said. “Russia’s launch of a military intervention in Syria in 2015 turned it into an important player in the Middle East. Israel sees Russia’s presence there as a moderating influence among Islamist militant organizations such as Hezbollah and Iran’s increasingly aggressive stance.”

Since mid-December, Washington, Moscow and European nations have been in contact amid Putin’s demanded written guarantees that NATO wouldn’t expand eastward and that NATO withdraw troops and missiles from countries that joined the alliance after 1997.

“As Russia built up close to 200,000 troops on the Ukraine border, Germany’s (Chancellor) Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron were among the leading Europeans to visit Moscow in recent weeks, seeking to persuade Putin that his security concerns about Ukraine and NATO’s expansion could be dealt with through dialogue,” the Journal report said.

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