Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has attacked EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell over a visit to Tehran aimed at relaunching negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel has long rejected and tried to undermine in any way it could.
As a courtesy, Borrell reached out to Lapid ahead of his visit to Tehran, where Borrell said on Saturday he had reached an agreement to resume talks.
But Lapid’s response was far from appreciative, accusing Borrell of ignoring recent allegations that Iran plotted to kill Israeli civilians in Turkey. However, EU officials said that Borrell reached out to Lapid for advice on exactly all of these points; and in his public remarks after the Tehran meetings, Borrell noted that he addressed them as the Iranians.
In Brussels, Israeli criticism was seen as part of an effort to sabotage Iran’s nuclear talks.
“Borrell sent a message to Yair Lapid ahead of the trip to Tehran, describing his attempt to get Iran back into nuclear deal negotiations and remove the final obstacles,” a diplomat informed about the exchange told POLITICO. “In response to the news, Lapid Borrell replied that his position was very disappointing, especially after the cameras were removed and the sentencing [by the] IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] Blackboard.”
Lapid told Borrell, “This is a strategic mistake that sends the wrong message to Iran,” the diplomat said, adding, “I’m talking about the great potential in the Iranian context as Iran seeks to protect Israeli citizens around the world.” and particularly in Turkey, indicates a worrying lack of care for the lives of Israeli citizens.”
A spokesman for Borrell declined to comment on the message exchange, citing a longstanding policy of refusing to discuss leaked diplomatic communications.
However, an EU official noted that Borrell had traveled to Iran in his mediating role as the neutral coordinator of the negotiations and that he had managed to get the Iranians’ approval to resume “proximity talks” with US negotiators in the coming days reach.
The official acknowledged that “there are extremely worrying issues,” including Iran’s detention of EU citizens, but that Borrell raised these concerns, including Israel’s own security, directly with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian. Borrell has often said that restoring compliance by all sides to the nuclear deal would be good for global stability and good for the Middle East region, including Israel.
Borrell, speaking to reporters at the end of his visit on Saturday, acknowledged that reintegrating Iran into the global economy would help deal with the rise in oil and natural gas prices that resulted from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“This war will endanger a lot of things – it will lead to increases in the price of energy and food. In many countries, especially in Africa, this will lead to social unrest,” Borrell said. “So the more oil that is available, the better for energy prices. To fight price increases, you have to increase supply,” he said.
“So the deal would be good from the point of view of crisis stabilization in the energy sector. From the point of view of increasing security, this would be good. It will be good from Iran’s perspective to become a member of the international community, to become more active and participate in trade,” Borrell said.
The war, Borrell said, made restoring the nuclear deal “more necessary.”
However, some Western officials believe that relying on Russia to rely on Iran would be a grave, historical mistake.
Israel views the Iran nuclear deal as a real and present danger and has long worked to torpedo the deal while addressing its own fears about Iran developing a nuclear weapon by allegedly assassinating and criticizing Iranian scientists and other officials infrastructure destroyed.
Israel also flexed some muscles recently by hosting a visit by Rafael Grossi, Director General of the IAEA, and by publishing information to support it Iran had stolen confidential IAEA documents. The visit was furiously condemned by Tehran as Iranians accused Grossi of bias.
Grossi has said little about the visit other than to indicate that he has urged Israel to sign the global nuclear non-proliferation treaty and that his work requires him to visit all countries.
Borrell claimed success at the end of his meetings in Iran. “To sum it up,” he said. “Negotiations have stalled – no prospect of resuming – and thanks to these talks, they will resume in the coming days with close contacts between the United States and the Iranians.”
Stephanie Liechtenstein contributed to the reporting.