Iran turns to diplomacy amid high tensions


Iran’s foreign minister will embark on a diplomatic tour to try to salvage the nuclear deal amid high tensions following the US withdrawal and global fears over reports of unprecedented clashes with Israel in Syria.
Mohammad Javad Zarif will leave late on Saturday for visits to Beijing, Moscow and Brussels, a spokesman said on Friday, holding meetings with all five of the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran appeared determined not to be drawn into a wider regional conflict with Israel during the sensitive negotiations.
That is despite Israel’s claims it struck dozens of Iranian targets inside Syria early on Thursday as part of “Operation House of Cards”.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to “throw the Iranians out” of his country.
Israel said the strikes were in response to a missile volley fired from southern Syria by Iran’s Quds force, that struck the occupied Golan Heights without causing casualties.
But Iran flatly denied the Israeli version of events, saying Israel’s attacks were carried out on false “pretexts”.
“The repeated attacks by the Zionist regime on Syrian territory were carried out under pretexts that were invented by themselves and are without foundation,” said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi, without offering further details.
Iran must tread a delicate line as it seeks to show resolve against Trump and the Israeli strikes without alienating the European partners it needs to salvage something from the nuclear deal.
Zarif will hold high-pressure talks with the other parties to the deal, first in Beijing and Moscow, and then with his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany in Brussels on Tuesday.
All five have condemned Trump’s move to walk out of the deal and reimpose crippling sanctions, but European companies in particular will be highly vulnerable to economic pressure from Washington.

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