Feb 15, 2022 - World

Israel sends envoy to Vienna as nuclear talks reach crunch time

A  meeting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria.

A meeting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria in December 2021. Photo: EU Vienna Delegation/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Israel has sent an envoy to the nuclear talks in Vienna to meet with U.S. and other officials as the negotiations reach crunch time, Israeli officials said.

Why it matters: It's the first time since the Vienna talks began last April that Israel has sent a diplomat to the negotiations.

Driving the news: The Israeli envoy, Joshua Zarka, is the head of the Israeli foreign ministry's strategic department.

  • He is there to receive updates and make clear the Israeli position about a possible return to the 2015 nuclear deal, the Israeli officials said.
  • “Zarka went to Vienna to check what is cooking. He met everyone other than the Iranians," a senior Israeli official told me.
  • Zarka on Monday spoke with Raphael Grossi, the head of the international atomic energy agency. On Tuesday, he met with U.S. negotiator Rob Malley and negotiators from Russia, China, France, UK and Germany.

The big picture: Israeli officials are very concerned that in the last days of the talks, the U.S. and other world powers will make more concessions that will turn the 2015 nuclear agreement into an even worse deal than they think it is now.

  • In an interview with Bahraini newspaper Al-Ayyam during his visit to the Gulf kingdom this week, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said a return to the 2015 nuclear deal would be “a strategic mistake."
  • The U.S. and others say that if a deal is not reached soon, Iran's nuclear advances will soon render the 2015 deal ineffective.
Go deeper