Axios reported in April that the Biden administration discussed with its European and Israeli partners a possible proposal for an interim agreement with Iran that would include some sanctions relief in exchange for Tehran freezing parts of its nuclear program.
McGurk traveled to Muscat on May 8 after a trip to Saudi Arabia with national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and a visit to Israel to brief Prime Minister Netanyahu about the U.S. talks in Riyadh, four Israeli and U.S. officials said, IFP wrote. The Muscat visit wasn’t made public by either the U.S. or Oman.
The officials stated that the main issue that was discussed was a new diplomatic push over Iran’s nuclear program with Omani mediation.
“The Omanis are holding proximity talks between the U.S. and Iran,” a senior Israeli official told Axios. Proximity talks refer to negotiations done through an agreed upon third party without a face-to-face meeting.
Three senior Israeli officials claimed the White House is exploring through the Omani government whether the Iranians are open to taking steps that would put some limits on their nuclear program and de-escalate the regional situation and asking what the Iranians would want in return. “The Americans want a time out,” one of the senior Israeli officials told Axios.
A White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson pushed back on the Israeli officials’ claims.
“There is no U.S. discussion of an interim deal and no discussion of sanctions relief or closing safeguards cases,” the spokesperson said.
A senior European diplomat added that the “U.S. is working with the Omanis on the Iranian issue”. The White House NSC spokesperson said they won’t comment on regional diplomacy “of which Iran is one aspect”.
The Israeli government is concerned about a possible push by the Biden administration for a “freeze-for-freeze” interim agreement with Iran, three Israeli officials told Axios.
Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi are expected to discuss these concerns during their visit to the White House on Thursday.