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Malley meets Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. Photo: Qatari Foreign Ministry handout via Getty

U.S. envoy for Iran Rob Malley will meet on Friday in Paris with senior diplomats from France, Germany and the U.K. to discuss the stalemate in the nuclear talks with Iran, sources briefed on the meeting told me. Malley will arrive in Paris after a four-day trip to the Gulf.

Why it matters: The nuclear talks have been stalled since June, and America’s Arab partners are extremely concerned by Iran’s nuclear advances in recent months. Several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, are engaging with Tehran to try to de-escalate regional tensions.

Driving the news: Malley and the State Department’s point person for the Gulf, Daniel Benaim, started their regional tour in Abu Dhabi and met Emirati national security adviser Tahnoun bin Zayed and presidential adviser Anwar Gargash. They also met Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein.

  • The next stop was Doha where they met Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who had spoken a day earlier to his Iranian counterpart.
  • Malley then moved on to Saudi Arabia — the most important stop on the trip considering the strained U.S.-Saudi relationship and the ongoing Saudi-Iranian dialogue. He discussed Iran's nuclear program and regional activity with Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan, per the official Saudi news agency.
  • Malley also spoke by phone with the foreign minister of Bahrain.

Meanwhile back in Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met on Tuesday with the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.

What they’re saying: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday that Iran has never left the negotiating table and is serious about the nuclear talks. “For the other side, a readiness to lift sanctions can be a sign of their seriousness,” he said.

  • The U.S. and its European allies have accused the Iranians of wasting time and warned that their patience is not unlimited.

What’s next: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told the UN secretary-general in a phone call on Tuesday that Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri, would travel to Brussels next week for talks with EU political director Enrique Mora, who is coordinating the nuclear negotiations. It’s unclear if and when the sides will return to Vienna.

Go deeper

Nov 24, 2021 - World

Scoop: Saudis tried to stop UAE-Israel-Jordan solar energy deal

The crown princes of the UAE (left) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Saudi handout via Getty

The Saudi government pressured the United Arab Emirates to back off a major solar energy deal with Israel and Jordan, two senior Israeli officials with direct knowledge and another source briefed on the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: The agreement signed on Monday and helped across the finish line by U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is the biggest renewable energy project in the region. It will see the UAE build a massive solar farm in Jordan to supply electricity to Israel, and Israel in turn will build a desalination plant to provide water to Jordan.

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."