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US-Israel 'strategic group' discusses Iran concerns amid strained relations

Jake Sullivan chaired the US delegation to the talks [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 March, 2021

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The White House played down disagreements between Israel and the US over a return to the Iran nuclear deal following the first meeting of a bilateral strategic group.

US and Israeli officials focused on concerns about Iran during the first virtual meeting of a bilateral strategic group on Thursday, the White House said.

The issue of US policy to Iran has put relations between Israel and the Biden administration and Israel under strain.  

Delegations led by President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat “shared perspectives on regional security issues of mutual interest and concern, including Iran, and expressed their common determination to confront the challenges and threats facing the region,” Emily Horne, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Joe Biden have diverging views on Iran. President Joe Biden entered office promising to return the US to the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the JCPOA.

The Biden administration is seeking to draw Iran into talks about Tehran and Washington resuming compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which was former President Donald Trump withdrew from.

Attempts to resume the negotiations, however, have strained relations between the US and Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the Iran deal from the onset and later claimed that reviving the agreement would pave Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal.

Read also: US, Israel to hold first strategy consultations under Biden

The White House played down the disagreement by stressing that the bilateral strategic group meeting was “part of the broader ongoing dialogue between the United States and Israel on the full range of issues of importance to the bilateral relationship, building on longstanding dialogues between our two nations under previous administrations.”

“The National Security Advisors agreed on the importance of strategic interagency consultations and pledged to continue to these engagements,” Horne said.

The State Department on Thursday repeated that the United States will not offer Iran unilateral incentives to attend talks that it has rejected so far about resuming compliance with the deal, which gave Tehran sanctions relief in return for limits on its nuclear program.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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