Russia-Ukraine central to Blinken talks with Israel minister

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left meets with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, in Riga, Latvia, Monday, March 7, 2022. (Olivier Douliery, Pool via AP)(AP/Olivier Douliery)
RIGA, Latvia (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday thanked Israel for its efforts to end Russia’s war with Ukraine as he and his Israeli counterpart met to discuss the conflict and ongoing nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna.

Blinken said that any initiative to try to halt the conflict would be welcome as long as the move is consistent with U.S., NATO and European principles that Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity are respected.

He made the comments as he and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid sat down for hastily arranged talks in the Latvian capital of Riga just two days after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

“We very much appreciate the efforts that any of our close partners and friends and allies can make to see if there’s any opening to end the war consistent, of course, with the principles that we’ve all established,” Blinken told Lapid.

“I look forward to hearing your ideas, hearing about some of the engagements that Israel has had, but we appreciate all efforts by friends and allies to look for a diplomatic resolution,” he said.

Lapid, who flew to Latvia especially to brief Blinken on Bennett’s meeting with Putin and express Israel’s grave concern at the prospect of a new nuclear deal with Iran, said the meeting was taking place “at the moment the world order is changing.”

“The war that is going on in Ukraine and the nuclear talks in Vienna are events that are changing the world as we know it,” he said. He said Israel is “totally committed” to doing everything in its power to bring an end to the war in Ukraine.

On Iran, Lapid noted Israel’s concerns about the nuclear negotiations potentially at the point of a breakthrough, saying Israel has well-known differences with the U.S. on a deal even if they share the end goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

“It’s no secret we have our differences on this, but it’s it’s a conversation between allies that have a common goal, which is preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold country and to stop Iran’s ability to spread terror and instability all around the world,” Lapid said.

Blinken responded that both Israel and the United States are “united and committed to the proposition that Iran must never obtain a nuclear weapon.”

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