Israeli PM Bennett on whirlwind visit to UAE amid standoff with Iran

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made a surprise visit to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, the snapshot trip coming as efforts to salvage a deal over Iran’s nuclear program are locked in a deepening stalemate with Tehran.

The visit was Bennett’s second public trip to Abu Dhabi since Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalize relations in 2020 after years of low-key cooperation, primarily over shared concerns over the nuclear capabilities of the United Arab Emirates. Iran.

The Israeli leader met with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the two discussed “advancement of regional architecture” and other undisclosed regional affairs, the office said. Bennett in a statement. Iran was probably top of the agenda.

In a video statement before his departure, Bennett praised the countries at an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna on Wednesday that voted to censor Iran for its lack of transparency regarding the nuclear activities at three undeclared sites in the country.

“We see here a firm position of the countries of the world regarding the distinction between good and evil, because they clearly state that Iran is hiding things. We will not let go on this issue,” he said.

The IAEA said Thursday that Iran plans to increase its uranium enrichment, with the installation of advanced centrifuges. Advanced uranium enrichment is a key part of building a nuclear bomb.

Israel views Iran as its greatest enemy and has strongly opposed the 2015 deal between Iran and world powers, which eased economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear activities.

Israel says it wants an improved deal that places tougher restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and addresses Iran’s long-range missile program and its support for hostile proxies along Israel’s borders. Israel also says negotiations must be accompanied by a “credible” military threat to ensure Iran does not delay indefinitely.

In 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled America out of the deal, raising tensions across the Middle East and triggering a series of attacks and incidents. The withdrawal led to the rapid breakdown of the agreement.

Talks in Vienna over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal have stalled since April. Since the collapse of the deal, Iran has been using advanced centrifuges and has a rapidly growing stockpile of enriched uranium. Israeli leaders have claimed that Iran is only weeks away from accumulating enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon, although other components of a bomb are believed to be months or years away. .

Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, although UN experts and Western intelligence agencies say Iran had an organized military nuclear program until 2003.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to unfreeze their relations under US-brokered agreements known as the “Abraham Accords”, which saw similar agreements reached with Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. Sudan. Since then, Israel and the United Arab Emirates have deepened their ties in tourism and trade, much to the chagrin of Palestinians who have long relied on an Arab wall of support for leverage against Israel.

Bennett’s trip comes as Israel is on the cusp of another political crisis, with members of its fragile coalition threatening to flee unless the government can pass a law on the legal status of its settlers from West Bank.

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