Israel focuses on Iran’s ‘extraordinary aggression’

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he planned to focus on countering Iran’s “extraordinary aggression” during talks with his British counterpart Theresa May on Monday.

Iran would be the most important topic in talks with May and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, Netanyahu said, ahead of his planned meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington next week.

“I think that the most important thing at the moment is that countries like the US – which will take the lead – Israel and the UK line up together against Iran’s aggression and set clear limits to it,” he said before leaving Tel Aviv.

His trips to London and Washington would allow him to take advantage of new “diplomatic opportunities” and he will “speak with both of them about tightening relations, between each side and Israel, and trilaterally,” said Netanyahu, who arrived on London late Sunday.

Iran has been testing rockets and holding ballistic missile tests in recent weeks, prompting the US Treasury Department to impose fresh sanctions against 25 Iranian individuals and companies on Friday.

On Sunday, Trump again criticized the nuclear deal the United States and five other powers – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – made with Iran in 2015.

Iran is “the number one terrorist state,” Trump told Fox News. “They are sending money all over the place – and weapons.”

He said the nuclear deal “should have never been negotiated” with Iran.

Netanyahu is also a fierce opponent of the deal, while Trump threatened to withdraw from it during his election campaign.

But May is expected to defend the agreement, after Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, last month said it had been “an indisputable diplomatic success.”

“We’ve seen the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons disappear for over a decade,” Rycroft said.

He said the deal had improved Iran’s economic prospects, adding that British exports to Iran rose by 42 per cent in the first nine months of last year.

May and Netanyahu are also expected to discuss Israel’s recently announced plans to build more than 5,000 settlement units in the West Bank. Tobias Ellwood, Britain’s minister for the Middle East, last week condemned the plans, saying they endanger a two-state solution.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Monday said May’s promise that she would tell Netanyahu that building the new settlements undermines trust is “simply not good enough.”

The Israeli government’s decision is “illegal under international law and a threat to peace and international security,” Corbyn said.

“Theresa May must make clear to the Israeli prime minister that the British government will stand unequivocally behind the rights of the Palestinian people … as well as human rights and justice across the region,” he said.

Israel’s parliament is expected to pass a bill on Monday night to retroactively legalize settlements in the West Bank, though it’s unlikely to make it past Israel’s Supreme Court if passed.

Netanyahu reportedly has requested that the Knesset hold off on the bill until after his planned meeting with Trump on February 15.(dpa/NAN)


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