Lavrov, Abdollahian Discuss Opportunities to Revive Nuclear Pact

 Lavrov and Abdollahian held talks in Moscow in August. (Russian Foreign Ministry)
Lavrov and Abdollahian held talks in Moscow in August. (Russian Foreign Ministry)
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Lavrov, Abdollahian Discuss Opportunities to Revive Nuclear Pact

 Lavrov and Abdollahian held talks in Moscow in August. (Russian Foreign Ministry)
Lavrov and Abdollahian held talks in Moscow in August. (Russian Foreign Ministry)

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian will visit Moscow on Wednesday to hold talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on several issues, including faltering efforts to revive the nuclear agreement.

Iranian media quoted the Iranian ambassador to Moscow, Kazem Jalali, as saying that Abdollahian will follow up on the implementation of bilateral agreements, and will review regional developments, and the latest situation in the International North-South Transport Corridor.

The Iranian foreign minister had announced his visit to Moscow, saying in a Tweet on Monday: “Balanced foreign policy and active diplomacy are on the right track.”

Last week, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters at her weekly press briefing that Lavrov will hold consultations with his Iranian counterpart on Wednesday on current international issues, including the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The two ministers are also expected to discuss the regional situation in light of the agreement between Riyadh and Tehran to resume diplomatic relations, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

Abdollahian is currently facing increasing pressure, whether from critics of the current government’s approach to the nuclear negotiations or those questioning his ability to lead the Iranian diplomatic apparatus. In fact, the Secretary-General of the Iranian National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, stole the limelight in the wake of the Iranian-Saudi agreement, and his visit to both Abu Dhabi and Baghdad, which preceded the meetings held by the head of the Strategic Relations Committee, Kamal Kharazi, in Damascus and Beirut.

Abdollahian, Shamkhani, and Kharazi have all tried to deny the presence of any divisions among the Iranian bodies, stressing coordination on foreign policy.

On the eve of his visit to Moscow, the Iranian foreign minister sent several messages in press statements that were reported by the official media on Tuesday. He warned that the doors of nuclear negotiations “will not remain open,” speaking of a plan that the Iranian parliament intends to discuss to set a ceiling for nuclear talks.

Nonetheless, Abdollahian said that Tehran was “committed” to cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in reference to the recent agreement reached by the director of the UN agency, Rafael Grossi, regarding the investigation of uranium particles recently found at the Fordo facility, with a purity of 83.7 percent, or the thorny investigation of traces of uranium in three undeclared sites.

Meanwhile, the Russian envoy to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said on Monday that the negotiations to revive the nuclear agreement remained at a dead end, adding that the Western parties were “refraining from announcing their death.”

In remarks to the Russian Novosti agency, Ulyanov noted that the chances of completing the negotiation process “still exist today, although they seem to be very limited.”

“The United States opposes the resumption of the negotiation process in the first place, as well as the three European countries (Germany, France and Britain), which seem to have almost lost interest in restoring the nuclear deal,” he added.



Israeli Polls Show Netanyahu Party Narrowing Gap Behind Gantz 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
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Israeli Polls Show Netanyahu Party Narrowing Gap Behind Gantz 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right wing Likud party has reduced the gap behind the centrist party of former minister Benny Gantz, who quit the wartime unity government on Sunday, two polls showed on Friday.

The polls, for the left wing Ma'ariv daily and the right-wing Israel Hayom newspaper, showed Likud winning 21 seats behind the National Unity Party on 24. The Ma'ariv poll last week showed Gantz's party on 27 seats, while at the start of the year, it was regularly polling in the high 30s.

The Ma'ariv poll shows the current ruling coalition winning 52 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, against 58 for the main opposition parties, with the balance of 10 seats held by the United Arab List and the left-wing Hadash-Ta'al alliance.

The Israel Hayom poll put the coalition on 50 seats against 61 for the opposition parties and 9 for the UAL and Hadash-Ta'al.

Both polls showed a majority of voters would prefer Gantz as prime minister in a head-to-head choice with Netanyahu. However, the Israel Hayom poll showed that if former prime minister Naftali Bennett were to join forces with Avigdor Liberman and Gideon Saar, two other center right politicians from outside the Likud camp, their alliance could beat both Likud and Gantz's National Unity Party.

Gantz, a former army general and defense minister in the last government, joined Netanyahu's coalition last year as a gesture of national unity following the devastating attack by Hamas on Oct 7.

However, he clashed repeatedly with other ministers and quit the government after demanding Netanyahu articulate a clear strategic plan for the war in Gaza, now in its ninth month.

Netanyahu, who was widely blamed for the security failures that allowed the Oct. 7 attack to take place, has refused to call early elections and would not normally face voters until 2026 if his coalition with a clutch of religious and right-wing pro-settler parties holds.