The United Kingdom and Israel will “work night and day” in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, the foreign ministers of the two countries wrote in a joint article.
“The clock is ticking, which heightens the need for close cooperation with our partners and friends to thwart Tehran’s ambitions,” the UK’s Liz Truss and her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid wrote in The Telegraph newspaper on Sunday.
Lapid arrived in London on Sunday for a two-day trip to the UK and France, a day before talks on Iran’s nuclear programme restart in Vienna.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said earlier in the day that his country was “very worried” that world powers will remove sanctions on Iran in exchange for insufficient caps on its nuclear programme, as negotiators convene in Vienna on Monday in a last-ditch effort to salvage a nuclear deal.
One of Lapid’s primary goals of visiting the UK and France is to ensure that banking sanctions against Iran remain in place, Israeli Channel 13 reported.
Lapid is expected to meet his British counterpart Truss on Monday to sign a series of agreements, including a 10-year agreement to work closely on areas such as cybersecurity, technology, trade and defence, according to The Telegraph.
The foreign ministers said in the article that Israel will officially become Britain’s “tier one” cyber-partner, in a bid to improve its cyber-defences as countries around the world face increased threats.
Lapid is then scheduled to attend an event hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, where both officials will give speeches.
The foreign minister is slated to travel to France on Monday night, before the meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday afternoon.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, reacted to the joint article by saying it casted doubt on Western intentions heading into the Vienna talks to salvage the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal is formally known.
He told reporters during a press conference on Monday that the meetings between two European parties to the nuclear deal with the pact’s biggest opponent on the eve of the talks shows they do not truly wish to lift sanctions.
“This shows that not only are these countries not serious, but also they want the talks to be lengthened and they don’t want the effective implementation of the JCPOA,” Khatibzadeh said.
With Tehran sticking to its tough stance and Western powers increasingly frustrated, hopes of a breakthrough to salvage their 2015 nuclear deal appear slim.
Diplomats say time is running out to resurrect the pact, which then-US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, angering Iran and dismaying the other powers involved – the UK, China, France, Germany and Russia.
Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June. The new round begins after a hiatus triggered by the election of a new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline Muslim leader.
Tehran’s new negotiating team has set out demands that US and European diplomats consider unrealistic, Western diplomats say.
The demands include dropping all US and European Union sanctions imposed since 2017, including those unrelated to Iran’s nuclear programme.