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US: Biden's Iran envoy travels to Israel, Gulf ahead of Iran nuclear talks

Robert Malley travels to Israel, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to 'coordinate approaches' on Tehran
Robert Malley noted last month that the US was assessing all its options if a deal is not reached.
Robert Malley noted last month that the US was assessing all its options if a deal is not reached (AFP/File photo)
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Washington

The US special envoy on Iran Robert Malley is headed to the Middle East, where he will visit Israel and Gulf nations over the next week and a half, ahead of a new round of talks aimed at restarting the Iran nuclear deal.

Malley will lead an inter-agency team on a visit to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Israel between 11 and 20 November to "hold consultations with partners and attend a series of regional engagements", the State Department said in a statement on Thursday.

"He will coordinate our approaches on a broad range of concerns with Iran, including its destabilizing activities in the region and the upcoming seventh round of talks on a mutual return to full compliance with" the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, according to the department.

When President Joe Biden took office in January, he and his administration sought a return to the accord that his predecessor Donald Trump left in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

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After six rounds of indirect negotiations from April to June, the talks took a pause until after Iran's presidential elections. The next round is set to resume on 29 November in Vienna.

While the Biden administration is looking for a mutual return to the nuclear agreement, Iran's foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday that "nothing will change in Vienna" if Washington does not change its approach to maintaining Trump's legacy and upholding sanctions.

The Islamic Republic also said the US should provide guarantees it will not again abandon the deal, if talks to revive the agreement succeed.

The ongoing stance, however, is likely to cause concern in the US and with the nuclear accord's European signatories - France, the UK and Germany - who deem the lifting of all sanctions unrealistic and want to resume June's talks where they left off, without new demands.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday that Washington maintains it will "seek constructive engagement in Vienna". However, Malley noted last month that the US was assessing all its options if a deal is not reached.

Malley's visit to the Middle East comes after the US, Israel, the UAE and Bahrain kicked off their first joint military naval exercise in the Red Sea since Israel normalised ties with the three Arab countries last year.

Tehran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani, meanwhile, set off on a trip this week to the UK, France and Germany.