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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Rouhani warns of Israel’s regional military presence in talks with Qatar’s Amir

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Iran’s main nuclear enrichment site in Natanz was attacked earlier this week, with the Islamic Republic pointing the blame towards Israel.

Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani held a phone call with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to mark the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan on Tuesday.

According to Al Jazeera, Rouhani expressed concern over Israel’s military presence in the region, saying ” it is not a solution” to its problems.

“The solution to crises in the region is through constructive dialogue between the countries of the region,” Rouhani told Qatar’s Amir.

The statement followed an attack on Iran’s main Natanz nuclear enrichment site earlier this week. Qatar condemned the assault and said it was a “dangerous act of sabotage” that threatens regional stability.

Read also: Qatar condemns attack on Natanz nuclear facility

The leaders also tapped into current talks to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA], with Rouhani doubling down on demands to lift all forms of sanctions to ensure a full return to the historic accord.

Sheikh Tamim reportedly invited Rouhani to visit Qatar.

Qatar has been a key regional mediator and most notably played a pivotal role to calm nerves last year when the region found itself on the bring of war after the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

More recently, Doha has offered to mediate between Tehran and Washington to ensure the return of the 2015 nuclear deal three years after former US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal.

Recent regional tensions

While Israel has not claimed the attack, Iran analysts have pointed towards provocative statements made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks who has repeatedly described Iran as a major threat.

“I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel,” Netanyahu told journalists on Monday following a meeting with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in Tel Aviv.

Israel’s Kan public radio said the Mossad spy agency carried out a cyber attack at the nuclear site, citing intelligence sources.

“Iran will take revenge upon Israel for the Natanz incident,” said Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh at a news conference on Monday.

Iran also warned that it will start increasing its uranium enrichment, a move that has concerned the White House.

“We are worried about Iran’s announcement of the provocative increase in uranium enrichment as our goal is to return to compliance with the nuclear agreement,” the White House stated on Tuesday.

Despite being a key Israeli ally, Washington’s links to the latest attack remain highly unlikely given President Joe Biden’s keenness to return to the deal. The nuclear accord initially came into effect under President Barack Obama in 2015, when Biden served as vice president.

“The US was not involved in any manner,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told journalists at a press briefing on Monday. “We have nothing to add on speculation about the causes.”

The latest attack on the nuclear facility comes at a critical time with indirect talks being held between the US and Iran, as well as other members of the historic nuclear accord -China, Russia, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.

The third meeting between the powers involved in the deal is due take place in Vienna on Wednesday.


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