Lapid arrives in London as Iranian bank sanctions showdown takes shape

A day before talks to restart Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna, Foreign Secretary Yair Lapid arrived in London on Sunday for a two-day trip to the UK and France.

One of Lapid’s main goals during his meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron is to ensure that banking sanctions against Iran remain in place, Channel 13 reported.

However, Iran comes to Vienna determined to lift those same sanctions. The Iranian negotiating team includes the deputy governor of the Iranian Central Bank and senior officials from the ministries of commerce and the economy.

In an effort to prevent Iran from financing its armed groups by proxy, the United States, Donald Trump, in October 2020 sanctioned 18 Iranian banks and gave foreign companies 45 days to stop doing business with them or risk financial losses. secondary sanctions.

“The minister’s visit will focus on resuming nuclear talks in Vienna as well as deepening bilateral relations between Israel and Britain and France,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Lapid’s program begins Monday with a meeting with his British counterpart Liz Truss. They will sign a series of agreements and hold a press conference.

Lapid is next expected to attend an event hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, where the two officials will deliver speeches.

Lapid and Johnson will hold a business meeting at 10 Downing Street in the afternoon, ahead of a Hanukkah lighting ceremony at the Prime Minister’s official residence.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is due to visit France on Monday evening, before meeting French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday afternoon.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) is introduced to Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar (left) as he meets Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) on the sidelines of the COP26 climate conference at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 2, 2021. (Alberto Pezzali / PISCINE / AFP)

The schedule and delegation were lightened over the weekend as new restrictions take effect amid fears over the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.

World powers – known as the P5 + 1, which include the UK and France – are set to resume talks with Iran on Monday over a return of Iran and the US under the deal nuclear JCPOA 2015.

Talks have been frozen since the summer when Iran elected a radical new president.

Israel has spoken out strongly against an American return to the deal, which Jerusalem considers far too weak and ultimately paves the way for an Iranian nuclear weapon. Instead, Israeli officials called for a different and tougher diplomatic approach, backed by the credible threat of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program.

Lapid’s trip is the latest sign of the UK’s growing ties to Israel.

Last Tuesday, Johnson warned that “the world does not have much time” on Iran, during comments with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, echoing the concerns of Israeli and Western leaders over Tehran’s uranium stockpile. , which rose as talks froze.

Herzog urged Johnson and a group of 100 British lawmakers he met separately to ensure their government stays tough on Iran as world powers prepare to resume negotiations.

“Our understanding is that the Iranians are not coming [to Vienna] doing business, rather rushing for a bomb, ”Herzog told MPs at the Palace of Westminster.

“It is the duty of the superpowers to be strong and to make it clear that all options are on the table,” he added, apparently referring to Israel’s constant demand that countries present a military threat. credible against Iran.

Herzog also met Truss and Johnson on his trip.

President Isaac Herzog meets with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in London on November 22, 2022 (Courtesy)

Also last week, London announced that it was naming all of Hamas as a terrorist organization and outlawing its support for the group.

Truss took office in September and held what Lapid called “a warm and friendly conversation” with Israel’s top diplomat in October.

She expressed her support for the relationship between the UK and Israel. In a speech at the Conservative Friends of Israel reception earlier this month, Truss spoke of his desire to build “deeper relations” with the Jewish state, particularly around technology, security. and trade.

She also named Israel one of the UK’s most trusted allies, speaking of a new ‘freedom network’ to counter authoritarian states and ‘malicious actors’.

“Foreign Minister and Lapid will organize a strategic dialogue, during which they will discuss the normal range of problems,” said a source at the British embassy in Tel Aviv. “This is also an opportunity for the Foreign Minister to stress the importance of bilateral relations with the UK and with her personally.”

There have also been indications that France is warming to Israel.

“I think we have changed our point of view in France on Iran,” Philippe Latombe, vice-president of the France-Israel Friendship Group in the National Assembly, told The Times of Israel in July, “and so I think we changed our point of view. view of Israel.

President Isaac Herzog (left) and French Ambassador Eric Danon at a July 14 celebration, Jaffa, July 14, 2021 (Lazar Berman / Times of Israel)

During his July 14 speech in Tel Aviv last week, French Ambassador Eric Danon said: “The mullahs’ regime should never own the nuclear bomb.

However, France maintains open diplomatic channels with Iran. Macron was the first Western leader that new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi spoke to after taking office in August.

Macron called on Iran to “quickly resume negotiations in Vienna in order to reach a conclusion and immediately end all nuclear activities it is carrying out in violation of the agreement,” according to the French government statement.

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