United States national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, will visit Israel this week for detailed discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Iran’s nuclear programme, a senior Biden administration official has said.
The visit, which is expected to begin on Tuesday, comes as negotiations in Vienna over Iran returning to the 2015 nuclear deal have shown modest gains, but remain far from a breakthrough.
“We will talk about where we see the state of Iran’s nuclear program and some of the timelines,” the official told reporters. “It will be a good opportunity to sit down face-to-face and talk about the state of the talks, the timeframe in which we are working and to re-emphasise that we don’t have much time.”
Sullivan will be accompanied by the National Security Council’s Middle East director Brett McGurk and other US officials, and will also meet Palestinian President Mohammed Abbas in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank to discuss strengthening US relations with the Palestinians, the official said.
The Biden administration has made a return to Iran nuclear deal, from which former President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018, its top priority. The accord saw Iran agree to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
Since the US withdrawal, Tehran has increasingly flouted restrictions, saying it is no longer beholden to the agreement. The Western signatories of the nuclear deal have repeatedly sought urgency due to Iran’s nuclear advances.
Last week, a senior US official said Iran’s breakout time to producing enough highly enriched uranium for one nuclear weapon is now “really short” and alarming.
Iran has repeatedly denied that it seeks to develop a nuclear weapon.
An eighth round of talks between Iran and the other signatories of the deal, with the US participating indirectly, are set to resume next week.
Reports have indicated that the sides may be close to reaching a new joint draft, which incorporates elements from a text reached by the end of the sixth round of negotiations in June and new proposals put forth by the administration of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
An agreement on the draft would serve as a basis for continued negotiations.
Israel has remained staunchly opposed to the deal, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in early December urging world leaders to toe a “strong line” with Iran in negotiations.