Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday about the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna between world powers and Iran.

Six weeks after the pair met in Paris, Lapid and Macron “held a long conversation,” according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. The discussion centered on “nuclear talks and Israel’s demand to put pressure on Iran,” said Lapid.

His office said the two also discussed bilateral ties and that Macron “reiterated his commitment to the security of Israel and emphasized the importance he places on the warm relationship between Israel and France.”

The French presidency did not immediately offer its own readout of the call.

The latest round of Iran talks resumed last week in Vienna just after the new year, following a three-week break for the holidays after the talks restarted in November.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Friday that he remained optimistic that a deal could be reached between Iran and world powers on its nuclear program.

“I remain convinced we can reach a deal. Bits of progress have been made in the last few days,” Le Drian told BFM TV and RMC Radio, according to Reuters. “We have been heading in a positive direction in the last few days, but time is of the essence because if we don’t get an accord quickly there will be nothing to negotiate.”

During their call on Saturday, Lapid also congratulated Macron on France’s assumption of the presidency of the Council of the European Union, and “emphasized the importance of strengthening the relationship between Israel and the EU,” said the Foreign Ministry.

In late November, Lapid visited Paris and met with Macron at the end of a three-day trip to Europe seen largely as focused on the Iran talks.

At the time, Lapid emphasized to Macron that sanctions must not be removed from Iran, and that only a credible military threat will stop Tehran’s nuclear program.

Lapid also stressed to Macron in November Israel’s belief that Iran is merely buying time at the talks in order to continue making progress in its nuclear program, and to gain relief from crippling economic sanctions. Israel’s top diplomat also emphasized the need to develop an effective Plan B if talks fail.

Iran said on Monday that it has detected a new “realism” on the part of the Western countries taking part in the talks.

“We sense a retreat, or rather realism from the Western parties in the Vienna negotiations, that there can be no demands beyond the nuclear accord,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters.

However, “it is too early to judge if the United States and the three European countries [France, Germany and the UK] have drawn up a real agenda to commit to lifting sanctions,” he said.

Lapid speaks to Macron, calls for pressure on Iran as Vienna nuclear talks continue

Josh Toupos

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