During a visit to Moscow on Thursday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, that Iran must be stopped from obtaining nuclear weapons.
“Iran’s march towards a nuclear weapon is not only an Israeli problem, it’s a problem for the entire world,” Lapid said during a press conference following a sit-down meeting with Lavrov. “A nuclear Iran will lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”
Lapid declared: “The world needs to stop Iran from getting a nuclear capability, no matter the price,” adding, “If the world doesn’t do it, Israel reserves the right to act.”
The Israeli foreign minister, visiting Moscow on a one-day trip, said, “There won’t be stability in Syria, or in the wider Middle East, while there is an Iranian presence.” He called Tehran “the world’s number one exporter of terror.”
He added that Israel “will not sit quietly by while Iran builds terror bases on our northern border or while Iran supplies advanced weapons to terror organizations.” Lapid said while Jerusalem recognizes Moscow’s “key interests in the region,” Israel will “maintain our ability to defend ourselves in the face of threats from Syria and elsewhere.”
Lapid also noted reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency about Iran’s nuclear program, noting “serious violations, fraud, deception and outright lies.”
“The picture is clear and very worrying,” he said.
In his own public comments, Lavrov did not mention Iran, but he noted that he and Lapid had discussed the situation in Syria.
“Russia believes… [in] the territorial integrity of Syria,” said Lavrov, adding that “Syria has the right to define the future of its nation.” He stressed the importance of humanitarian aid to Syrians, and blamed Western sanctions for blocking some of that assistance.
In response to a question from a reporter about Israeli airstrikes in Syria, Lavrov said Russia opposes Syria “becoming an arena of confrontations with third parties. This is why we don’t want the Syrian territory to be used against Israel or against any other party,” he added, noting ongoing coordination between Jerusalem and Moscow on activity in the area.
Lavrov also said that Lapid had invited him to visit Israel soon, “and I gladly accept his offer.”
At the same time that Lapid and Lavrov were meeting in Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was meeting with Rob Malley, the US envoy on Iran, to discuss “the prospects of restoring full-fledged implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Months of negotiations in Vienna earlier this year aimed at bringing Iran back into compliance with the 2015 deal — which former US president Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018 — stalled in June after hardliner Ebrahim Raisi was elected the new president of Iran.