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Source: I24News

Feb 21, 2023

'The [United States] and Europe cannot stand on the side anymore on the Iranian issue,' Cohen says, highlighting Iran's nuclear efforts

In an exclusive interview with i24NEWS, Israel's Foreign Minister Eli Cohen predicted that the Western world would impose "snapback" sanctions on Iran before the 78th UN General Assembly in September of this year.

“According to my estimation, the [United States] and Europe cannot stand on the side anymore on the Iranian issue," Cohen said. "Iran is very close to enriching uranium to 90 percent, and Iran is supplying weapons to Russia to fight Ukraine."

There have been reports that Iran has enriched uranium up to 84 percent, just below the 90 percent needed to produce a nuclear bomb. The findings came with negotiations stalled to revive a landmark deal over Iran’s nuclear program, and as Israel increases its pressure on the international community to act against the Iranian threat.

"The [United States] and relevant European countries will force snapback (sanctions) on Iran before the UN General Assembly in September," he said, referring to the reimposition of sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear efforts.

After Iran signed a historic nuclear accord with world powers in 2015, the UN lifted international sanctions against Tehran in exchange for it agreeing not to develop nuclear weapons. But a clause in the agreement allowed the United States to reimpose, or "snapback," all sanctions if Iran failed to comply with the agreement, without UN Security Council members being allowed to veto.

On the contentious judicial reform in Israel, which recently passed the voting in its first reading in parliament, Cohen stressed that it would "strengthen" Israel's democracy. 

“I believe the reform… will strengthen Israeli democracy. I met many of my colleagues from Europe, but none of them spoke of the judicial reform. They all focus mainly on the Russian-Ukraine war and its effect on them, on energy prices, inflation, and on threats coming from Iran.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the UN called on Israel to pause its judicial reform plans, saying they could harm human rights protections and needed wider debate and reflection. The legislation in question would significantly curb the Israeli Supreme Court’s power to exercise judicial review, allowing lawmakers to overrule court rulings with a bare majority and for government ministers to appoint their own legal advisors. 

The foreign minister also eluded to more countries joining the historic U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords to build relations with Israel.

“I spoke about bringing more countries to the Abraham Accords, and there will be some news. Not just countries from Africa, but countries from the Gulf and far-east Asia, who can join in the normalization agreement with Israel. For us, all the Muslim and Arab countries can be partners."

Last August, Israel marked two years since the signing of the Accords, which saw the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and later Morocco, normalize relations with the Jewish state -  representing a massive breakthrough in Israel's ties with the Arab world. Since then, talks of more countries reaching full normalization with Israel have been ripe, including with Chad, Sudan, and even Saudi Arabia.

He continued to stress that the Jewish state was "very close" to restoring ties with Poland: "We are very close to having an agreement with the Polish government. It's a mutual interest that relations will be stronger."

Jerusalem and Warsaw have been through waves of simmering and thawing diplomatic tensions in recent years following a spat over the passage of a Holocaust restitution law, and over the suspension by Poland of Holocaust education trips for Israeli students due to armed guards accompanying the students.

But in a sign of improving relations, Poland earlier this month submitted a proposal to Israel to resume Holocaust memorial tours.

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