Israeli PM to press France on Iran, warn Hezbollah to ‘play with fire’

JERUSALEM, July 5 (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid will urge French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday to take a tougher, time-limited approach to Iran nuclear talks, and warn that the Tehran-backed Hezbollah group “play with fire”. , said an official.

Lapid’s visit to France, his first abroad since becoming acting prime minister last week, is also an opportunity to flex his diplomatic muscles as Israelis prepare for a snap election in November.

France is among world powers trying to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that the previous US administration scrapped and Israel opposed, saying its caps were insufficient.

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As Lebanon’s former colonial administrator, France has additional influence in Beirut – whose economic crisis-hit leaders were rocked on Saturday when Israel shot down three Hezbollah drones launched at one of its platforms Mediterranean gas companies. Read more

“The French are very, very active on the Iranian issue,” a senior Israeli official told reporters.

“It’s important for us to get our point across…Israel opposes a return to the JCPOA (2015 nuclear deal). In the same breath, we don’t oppose a deal. We seek a deal very strong.”

Israel is not a party to the nuclear negotiations. But Western capitals have been attentive to his concerns about his nemesis and fear he will take preemptive military action if he sees diplomacy as a dead end.

Since the US walkout, Iran has itself breached the deal, accelerating projects that could make bombs – although it denies having such designs. Its technical advancements have put a ticking mark on the so far fruitless negotiations.

“We want an end to endless talks,” the senior Israeli official said, calling for “coordinated pressure” on Iran and offering help in “developing a proper framework” for that.

Israel has a de facto front with Iran in Lebanon, the seat of Hezbollah. The senior Israeli official, referring to Saturday’s shootings, accused the group of “playing with fire”.

The official declined to elaborate on the warning, but said Lapid would share with Macron “new elements explaining how Hezbollah is putting Lebanon at risk.”

Hezbollah and Israel fought a war across the Lebanese border in 2006, but have since been in a largely stable stalemate.

The Karish platform near the Lebanese coast will produce gas not only for Israel, but also for the European Union, the official said, exploiting the quest of EU countries to replace Russia as a supplier of gas energy since it invaded Ukraine.

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Written by Dan Williams; Editing by David Gregorio

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