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US invites senior Israeli official to Washington as potential Iran deal fuels concern

The United States on Tuesday invited a top Israeli official to visit Washington as ties between the US and Tel Aviv have become rocky since the Biden administration took office and eased pressure on Iran.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan extended the invite to his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat, during a virtual meeting that comes in a series of talks between the two countries on “security issues of vital importance,” the White House said.

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Shared regional threats and challenges, most notably Iran, were discussed in the meeting. “Mr. Sullivan reaffirmed the Biden-Harris administration’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and to ensuring that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon,” a readout of the meeting said.

The US and Iran have been engaged in their first talks – albeit indirect – since the Obama administration over Tehran’s nuclear program. Last week, the opening round of indirect discussions were held in Vienna. European capitals, Russia and China, are mediating the talks and conducting shuttle diplomacy.

The second round of talks were scheduled for Tuesday, but a member of the EU delegation tested positive for coronavirus forcing the talks to be delayed for one day.

Israeli officials have voiced skepticism over any potential deal that fails to deal with Iran’s support for terrorist groups, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthis, and its ballistic missile program.

Sullivan invited Ben-Shabbat for “follow-up consultations” before the end of the month, according to the White House.

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