Iran-US nuclear negotiations to resume ‘in the coming days’, say Iran FM and EU’s Borrell

Update Iran-US nuclear negotiations to resume ‘in the coming days’, say Iran FM and EU’s Borrell
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (R) welcomes Joseph Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (L). (File/AFP)
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Updated 26 June 2022

Iran-US nuclear negotiations to resume ‘in the coming days’, say Iran FM and EU’s Borrell

Iran-US nuclear negotiations to resume ‘in the coming days’, say Iran FM and EU’s Borrell
  • Iran FM says he had a “long but positive meeting” with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell
  • France urged Tehran to take advantage of Borrell’s visit to restore the pact while it remained possible

DUBAI: Iran’s indirect talks with the US on reviving the 2015 nuclear pact will resume soon, the Iranian foreign minister said on Saturday amid a push by the EU’s top diplomat to break a months-long impasse.

“We are prepared to resume talks in the coming days. What is important for Iran is to fully receive the economic benefits of the 2015 accord,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said, adding that he had held a “long but positive meeting” with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Borrell met Iran’s top diplomat on Saturday, Iranian state TV reported, as the bloc seeks to break an impasse between Tehran and Washington over reinstating a nuclear pact.

The pact appeared close to being revived in March when the EU — which is coordinating negotiations — invited foreign ministers representing the accord’s parties to Vienna to finalize an agreement after 11 months of indirect talks between Tehran and President Joe Biden’s administration.

HIGHLIGHT

Western powers fear Iran is getting closer to being able to produce a nuclear bomb if it decided to, though Iran says its intentions are entirely peaceful.

But the talks have since been bogged down, chiefly over Tehran’s insistence that Washington remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its elite security force, from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

“We are expected to resume talks in the coming days and break the impasse. It has been three months and we need to accelerate the work. I am very happy about the decision that has been made in Tehran and Washington,” Borrell said in Tehran.

“We agreed on resumption of negotiations between Iran and US in the coming days, facilitated by my team, to solve the last outstanding issues,” Borrell said. “And the coming days mean coming days. I mean, quickly, immediately.”

In 2018, then-US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal, under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.

The US withdrawal and its reimposition of crippling sanctions prompted Iran to begin violating its core nuclear limits about a year later.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, which makes the decisions in the nuclear talks, told Borrell that Iran will further develop its nuclear program until the West changes its “illegal behavior.”

“Iran’s retaliatory actions in the nuclear sector are merely legal and rational responses to US unilateralism and European inaction and will continue as long as the West’s illegal practices are not changed,” Shamkhani said.

And despite the imminent resumption of talks, Borrell appeared to play down the possibility of a quick deal.

“I cannot predict ... We are pushing for it. I appreciate the goodwill from the Iranian side. There is also goodwill from the American side,” Borrell said in a news conference on an EU website.

“Talks between Iran, the US and the EU will not take place in Vienna because they will not be in the 4+1 format ... they will probably take place somewhere closer to the Arabian Gulf and more specifically in an Arabian Gulf state,” Iranian media quoted Borrell as saying.

 


Jordan government reiterates support to Yemen truce

Jordan government reiterates support to Yemen truce
Updated 08 August 2022

Jordan government reiterates support to Yemen truce

Jordan government reiterates support to Yemen truce
  • Jordan’s foreign minister added that the country has received ‘7,000 Yemenis since the start of the armistice’

DUBAI: Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday that Amman is ‘committed to continuing its support for Yemen and enhancing its stability.’

Safadi, who spoke in a joint press conference with his Yemeni counterpart, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, said Jordan supports the truce in Yemen and ‘roads to Taiz must be opened.’

“A comprehensive agreement must be reached in Yemen in accordance to the Gulf’s references and initiatives,” he said.

Jordan’s foreign minister added that the country has received ‘7,000 Yemenis since the start of the armistice.’

Also speaking at the conference, bin Mubarak accused the Iran-backed Houthis of not abiding by a key element in the UN-brokered truce to reopen roads to the besieged city of Taiz saying the group was “running away” from its commitments.

He said the Houthis ‘imposed’ the war on the country after the militia’s failed uprising, laying a siege on Taiz and its residents for seven years using ‘minefields’.

Bin Mubarak confirmed his government's support to expand the truce into a ‘comprehensive political agreement.’

He said all nations are ‘facing the Iranian project’, which chose Yemen as its station.

Meanwhile, Safadi condemned the recent attacks in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque during the meeting.

‘We are committed to the two-state solution,’ he said.

Bin Mubarak also announced an upcoming visit of Rashad Al-Alimi, the chairman of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, to Jordan.


Gaza crossing opens as truce holds between Israel, Islamic Jihad

Gaza crossing opens as truce holds between Israel, Islamic Jihad
Updated 08 August 2022

Gaza crossing opens as truce holds between Israel, Islamic Jihad

Gaza crossing opens as truce holds between Israel, Islamic Jihad
  • Trucks passed from Israel through the Kerem Shalom goods crossing to southern Gaza

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: Gaza’s sole power plant also restarted Monday after fuel trucks passed from Israel into the Palestinian enclave following the start of truce ending three days of deadly conflict, the electricity company said.

“The plant has started working to generate electricity,” Mohammed Thabet, spokesman for the company, told AFP. The plant had shut on Saturday after running out of fuel following Israel's closure of the goods crossing. 

An AFP journalist at the goods crossing to southern Gaza saw trucks loaded with fuel enter the enclave, ending a severe shortage which had prompted the only power station there to shut down Saturday.

The arrival of vital supplies follows the start of a cease-fire at 11:30 p.m. (2030 GMT) Sunday to stem the worst fighting in Gaza since an 11-day war last year devastated the Palestinian coastal territory. 

Gaza’s health ministry said 15 children were among 44 people killed in three days of intense fighting.

Despite a flurry of strikes and rocket attacks in the run-up to the truce, neither side had reported any major violations of the agreement overnight.

The Israeli military said roads would gradually reopen in the border area on Monday.

“It was decided to gradually lift the restrictions,” which have seen Israelis living near Gaza remain close to their bomb shelters, the army said.

US President Joe Biden welcomed the cease-fire and thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for his country’s role in brokering it.

UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said in a statement: “The situation is still very fragile, and I urge all parties to observe the cease-fire.”

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office late Sunday thanked “Egypt for its efforts” as it agreed to the truce, but said that “if the cease-fire is violated,” Israel “maintains the right to respond strongly.”

Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed group designated as a terrorist organization by several Western nations, also accepted the truce but said it too “reserves the right to respond” to any aggression.

Starting on Friday, Israel had launched a heavy aerial and artillery bombardment of Islamic Jihad positions in Gaza, leading the militants to fire hundreds of rockets in retaliation.

In addition to those killed, Gazan health officials said 360 people had been wounded in the Palestinian enclave, which is run by the Islamist group Hamas.

A senior Israeli diplomatic official said Monday that “most of the civilians that were killed in Gaza were killed by Islamic Jihad rockets” that fell short or misfired.

Three people in Israel were wounded by shrapnel, while 31 others were lightly hurt while running for safety, emergency services said.

Islamic Jihad member Mohammad Al-Hindi said the cease-fire deal “contains Egypt’s commitment to work toward the release of two prisoners.”

They were named as Bassem Al-Saadi, a senior figure in the group’s political wing who was recently arrested in the occupied West Bank, and Khalil Awawdeh, a militant also in Israeli detention.

Gaza resident Nour Abu Sultan, 29, said the three days of conflict were “terrifying,” and that she had been unable to sleep during the “shelling and rockets, the sound of aircraft above us.”

Dalia Harel, a resident of the Israeli town of Sderot close to the Gaza border, said she was “disappointed” at news of a truce Sunday despite her five children being “traumatized.”

“We’re tired of having a military operation every year,” she said. “We need our military and political leaders to get it over with once and for all... we’re not for war, but we can’t go on like this.”

Islamic Jihad is aligned with Hamas but often acts independently. Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, including the conflict in May last year.

Israel has said it was necessary to launch a “pre-emptive” operation against Islamic Jihad, while the diplomatic official said the group had been planning an attack by sniper fire or with anti-tank missiles.

The army has killed senior leaders of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, including Taysir Al-Jabari and Khaled Mansour.

The senior Israeli diplomatic official said Islamic Jihad had been dealt “a very serious blow” which had “taken them back decades.”


Iran: Police arrest Afghan suspected of stabbing 10 to death

Iran: Police arrest Afghan suspected of stabbing 10 to death
Updated 08 August 2022

Iran: Police arrest Afghan suspected of stabbing 10 to death

Iran: Police arrest Afghan suspected of stabbing 10 to death
  • According to the report, the suspect was mentally unbalanced
  • Violent acts have escalated in recent years in Iran as the country’s economic conditions deteriorate

TEHRAN: Police in Iran arrested an Afghan man suspected of stabbing 10 other farm laborers to death following a quarrel over land, Iranian state media reported Monday. The rampage in a remote village in southeastern Iran was a rare such incident in the Islamic Republic.
The official IRNA news agency said four Iranians and six Afghans were killed, and one farm worker was wounded in the rampage on Sunday and was in hospital. According to the report, the suspect was mentally unbalanced.
A decades-long drought in Iran has caused increased disputes over water resources and land with better access to water. Hunting rifles are the only weapon that Iranians are allowed to possess legally.
Violent acts have escalated in recent years in Iran as the country’s economic conditions deteriorate amid crushing American sanctions that helped spark soaring inflation and increasing unemployment.
In May, an employee fired from one of Iran’s largest state-owned financial conglomerates went on a shooting rampage at his former workplace in western Iran, killing three people and wounding five before turning the gun on himself.
In 2016, a 26-year-old man gunned down 10 relatives and wounded four others.


Negotiators optimistic about progress on Iran nuclear deal

Negotiators optimistic about progress on Iran nuclear deal
Updated 08 August 2022

Negotiators optimistic about progress on Iran nuclear deal

Negotiators optimistic about progress on Iran nuclear deal
  • Negotiators from Iran, the US and the European Union resumed indirect talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal Thursday after a months-long standstill in negotiations

VIENNA: Top negotiators in renewed talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal indicated Sunday that they are optimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement to impose limits on Tehran’s uranium enrichment.
“We stand 5 minutes or 5 seconds from the finish line,” Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov told reporters outside Vienna’s Palais Coburg, four days into the talks. He said there are “3 or 4 issues” left to be resolved.
“They are sensitive, especially for Iranians and Americans,” Ulyanov said. “I cannot guarantee, but the impression is that we are moving in the right direction.”
Enrique Mora, the European Union’s top negotiator, also said he is “absolutely” optimistic about the talks’ progress so far.
“We are advancing, and I expect we will close the negotiations soon,” he told Iranian media.
Negotiators from Iran, the US and the European Union resumed indirect talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal Thursday after a months-long standstill in negotiations.
Since the deal’s de facto collapse, Iran has been running advanced centrifuges and rapidly growing its stockpile of enriched uranium.
Iran struck the nuclear deal in 2015 with the US, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China. The deal saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium under the watch of UN inspectors in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Then US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the accord in 2018, saying he would negotiate a stronger deal, but that didn’t happen. Iran began breaking the deal’s terms a year later.


‘Fragile’ Gaza truce between Israel and Islamic Jihad holds

‘Fragile’ Gaza truce between Israel and Islamic Jihad holds
Updated 08 August 2022

‘Fragile’ Gaza truce between Israel and Islamic Jihad holds

‘Fragile’ Gaza truce between Israel and Islamic Jihad holds
  • The Egyptian-brokered cease-fire took effect at 11:30 p.m. (2030 GMT; 4:30 p.m. EDT)
  • Israeli aircraft have pummeled targets in Gaza since Friday, while the Iran-backed Palestinian Jihad militant group has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel in response

GAZA CITY:  A “fragile” Egypt-brokered truce between Israel and Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza appeared to be holding early Monday, raising hopes that the recent intense conflict that has left at least 44 Palestinians dead, including 15 children, has ended.
The truce, which officially started at 11:30 p.m. (2030 GMT) Sunday night, aims to stem the worst fighting in Gaza since an 11-day war last year devastated the Palestinian coastal territory.
Though a flurry of strikes and rocket attacks took place in the run-up to the truce, with sirens sounding in southern Israel moments before and after the deadline, neither side had reported any major violations of the agreement after four hours.
In a statement sent three minutes after the cease-fire began, Israel’s army said that “in response to rockets fired toward Israeli territory, the (military) is currently striking a wide range of targets” belonging to Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
In a subsequent statement, the army clarified that its “last” strikes took place at 11:25 pm.

A fireball rises from the site of an Israeli airstrike in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip Sunday night shortly before a ceasefire took effect. (AFP)

While both sides had agreed to the truce, each had warned the other that it would respond with force to any violence.
US President Joe Biden welcomed the cease-fire, thanking Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for his country’s role in brokering it. Biden also called for investigations into civilian casualties, which he called a “tragedy.”
In a statement, UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said: “The situation is still very fragile, and I urge all parties to observe the cease-fire.”

US President Joe Biden said he welcomed the cease-fire between Israel and Gaza-based militants.
“Over these last 72-hours, the United States has worked with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, and others throughout the region to encourage a swift resolution to the conflict,” he said in a statement.
The UN Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday on the violence. China, which holds the council presidency this month, scheduled the session in response to a request from the United Arab Emirates, which represents Arab nations on the council, as well as China, France, Ireland and Norway.
“We underscore our commitment to do all we can toward ending the ongoing escalation, ensuring the safety and security of the civilian population, and following-up on the Palestinian prisoners file,” said UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office late Sunday thanked “Egypt for its efforts” as it agreed to the truce, but said it that “if the cease-fire is violated,” Israel “maintains the right to respond strongly.”
Islamic Jihad member Mohammad Al-Hindi had already confirmed the militants had accepted the truce, but the group added in a statement that it too “reserves the right to respond” to any aggression.

Israeli aircraft have pummeled targets in Gaza since Friday, while the Iran-backed Palestinian Jihad militant group has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel in response. The risk of the cross-border fighting turning into a full-fledged war remained as long as no truce was reached. Israel says some of the dead were killed by misfired rockets.

In addition to the 44 people killed, 15 of them children, the Gaza health ministry said 360 people had been wounded in the Palestinian enclave, which is run by the Islamist group Hamas.
Israel insists several children in the territory have been killed by stray militant rockets.

Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system fires to intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Ashkelon, Israel just before a cease-fire took effect Sunday night. (AP)

Three people in Israel have been wounded by shrapnel, while 31 others have been lightly hurt, emergency services said.

Islamic Jihad’s Hindi said the cease-fire deal “contains Egypt’s commitment to work toward the release of two prisoners.”

The pair were named as Bassem Al-Saadi, a senior figure in the group’s political wing who was recently arrested in the occupied West Bank, and Khalil Awawdeh, a militant also in Israeli detention.

Gaza’s ruling Hamas group remained on the sidelines, possibly because it fears Israeli reprisals and undoing economic understandings with Israel, including Israeli work permits for thousands of Gaza residents, that bolster its control.
Israel launched its operation with a strike Friday on a leader of the Islamic Jihad, and followed up on Saturday with another targeted strike on a second prominent leader.

The second Islamic Jihad commander, Khaled Mansour, was killed in an airstrike on an apartment building in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza late Saturday, which also killed two other militants and five civilians.
Mansour, the Islamic Jihad commander for southern Gaza, was in the apartment of a member of the group when the missile struck, flattening the three-story building and badly damaging nearby houses.
“Suddenly, without warning, the house next to us was bombed and everything became black and dusty with smoke in the blink of an eye,” said Wissam Jouda, who lives next to the targeted building.
Ahmed Al-Qaissi, another neighbor, said his wife and son were among the wounded, suffering shrapnel injuries. To make way for rescue workers, Al-Qaissi agreed to have part of his house demolished.

As a funeral for Mansour began in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the Israeli military said it was striking suspected “Islamic Jihad rocket launch posts.” Smoke could be seen from the strikes as thumps from their explosions rattled Gaza. Israeli airstrikes and rocket fire followed for hours as sirens wailed in central Israel. As the sunset call to prayer sounded in Gaza, sirens wailed as far north as Tel Aviv.
Israel says some of the deaths during this round were caused by errant rocket fire, including one incident in the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza in which six Palestinians were killed Saturday. On Sunday, a projectile hit a home in the same area of Jebaliya, killing two men. Palestinians held Israel responsible, while Israel said it was investigating whether the area was struck by an errant rocket.
Israel’s Defense Ministry said mortars fired from Gaza hit the Erez border crossing into Israel, used by thousands of Gazans daily. The mortars damaged the roof and shrapnel hit the hall’s entrance, the ministry said. The crossing has been closed amid the fighting.
The Rafah strike was the deadliest so far in the current round of fighting, which was initiated by Israel on Friday with the targeted killing of Islamic Jihad’s commander for northern Gaza.

Israel said it took action against the militant group because of concrete threats of an imminent attack, but has not provided details. Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who is an experienced diplomat but untested in overseeing a war, unleashed the offensive less than three months before a general election in which he is campaigning to keep the job.

In a statement Sunday, Lapid said the military would continue to strike targets in Gaza “in a pinpoint and responsible way in order to reduce to a minimum the harm to noncombatants.” Lapid said the strike that killed Mansour was “an extraordinary achievement.”
“The operation will continue as long as necessary,” Lapid said.
Israel estimates its airstrikes killed about 15 militants.
Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas, and little is known about its arsenal. Both groups call for Israel’s destruction, but have different priorities, with Hamas constrained by the demands of governing.

The Israeli army said militants in Gaza fired about 580 rockets toward Israel. The army said its air defenses had intercepted many of them, with two of those shot down being fired toward Jerusalem. Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas.
Air raid sirens sounded in the Jerusalem area for the first time Sunday since last year’s Israel-Hamas war.
Jerusalem is typically a flashpoint during periods of cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza. On Sunday, hundreds of Jews, including firebrand ultra-nationalist lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, visited a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The visit, under heavy police protection, ended without incident, police said.
Such demonstrative visits by Israeli hard-liners seeking to underscore Israeli claims of sovereignty over contested Jerusalem have sparked violence in the past. The holy site sits on the fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is central to rival narratives of Palestinians and Israeli Jews.
In Palestinian cities and towns in the West Bank, Israeli security forces said they detained 19 people on suspicion of belonging to the Islamic Jihad during overnight raids.
By Sunday, Hamas still appeared to stay out of the battle. The group has a strong incentive to avoid another war. Last year’s Israel-Hamas war, one of four major conflicts and several smaller battles over the last 15 years, exacted a staggering toll on the impoverished territory’s 2.3 million Palestinian residents.
Since the last war, Israel and Hamas have reached tacit understandings based on trading calm for work permits and a slight easing of the border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt when Hamas overran the territory 15 years ago. Israel has issued 12,000 work permits to Gaza laborers, and has held out the prospect of granting another 2,000 permits.
The lone power plant in Gaza ground to a halt at noon Saturday due to lack of fuel. Israel has kept its crossing points into Gaza closed since Tuesday. With the new disruption, Gazans can use only four hours of electricity a day, increasing their reliance on private generators and deepening the territory’s chronic power crisis amid peak summer heat.