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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s multi-nation trip to Europe will take him to Italy on Sunday for multi-day meetings with top Italian politicians, Pope Francis, the group of 20 leaders and officials at ministerial level.
After a warm welcome in France and Germany, Blinken left Paris on Sunday for Rome, where he met the Italian Foreign Minister, the United Nations food safety authorities and representatives of the US Embassy. He has also met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
Blinken and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio will chair a meeting of the Global Coalition to Combat ISIS in Rome on Monday, where he will also meet Prime Minister Mario Draghi and President Sergio Mattarella to discuss the Syrian civil war and humanitarian needs this country.
The Foreign Ministry says Syria remains a major problem as tens of thousands of women and children in humanitarian camps are subject to security problems as members of the Islamic State terrorist group work to exploit the camps to recruit the next generation of fighters.
Blinken will also be traveling to Vatican City on Monday to meet Pope Francis and Archbishop Paul Gallagher. Topics he and Vatican officials are expected to discuss include climate change, human trafficking and debt relief for impoverished countries.
His meeting with the Pope comes ahead of a meeting expected in October between the Pope and US President Joe Biden, the second Catholic US President.
At a recent conference, Roman Catholic bishops in the United States voted in favor of a communion statement that could reprimand Catholic political figures, including Biden, who defend the right to abortion but are personally against the practice.
During his visit to Paris on Friday, Blinken warned that the lack of an interim agreement to oversee Iran’s nuclear activities could lead the US to abandon efforts to re-join a nuclear deal.
“We’ll see if we can bridge the differences, but they are real and we have to – we have to be able to bridge them,” Blinken said at a briefing in Paris after a meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian.
“I would tell you that in terms of that [International Atomic Energy Agency], This remains a serious concern, a concern that we communicated to Iran and it must … be resolved. “
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The agency has announced that a three-month interim surveillance agreement, closed on Feb.21, expired on Thursday after being extended for a month. According to an internal agency statement, which was viewed by Reuters news agency, it called for an “immediate response” from Iran to an extension of the surveillance agreement.
Blinken admitted at a press conference in Paris on Friday that the United States could ultimately decide not to re-join the deal if negotiations in Vienna continue without progress.
“Yes, there will be a point where it will be very difficult to go back to the standards of the JCPOA,” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers to curb its uranium enrichment program in exchange for the The sanctions imposed by the US, the European Union and the United Nations are lifted.
He urged Iran to take “tough” decisions to advance talks that could revive the deal.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement Friday that “the opposing sides are the ones who have to make the decisions.”
The negotiating parties held talks for six weeks and a sixth round of indirect talks ended last Sunday with important issues remaining unresolved.
Le Drian underscored Blinken’s warning and told reporters in Paris on Friday that it was up to Iran to move the talks forward.
“It has been six weeks since the resumption of negotiations. Some progress has been made and we are now entering the most difficult of times. It will take some strong and courageous decisions from the new Iranian authorities, but now is the time, ”said Le Drian.
Blinken met with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, accompanied by the Australian Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Mathias Cormann, speaks at the OECD headquarters in Paris on June 25, 2021.
The senior US diplomat came to France from Germany, where he and German leaders said on Thursday that the US and Germany would form a partnership to counter Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism and learn from them. “
In a speech in front of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, Blinken said that Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism go hand in hand with homophobia, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination and have “become a rallying call for those trying to restore our democracies. “
The leading US diplomat also met with Libya’s Interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dabaiba on Thursday following an international conference focused on helping Libya’s transition to a permanent, stable government.
Representatives from 17 countries attended the conference hosted by Germany and the United Nations on Wednesday and increased support for the national elections in Libya planned for the end of December.
Libya has been experiencing political instability since the NATO-backed uprising in 2011, in which long-time ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi was overthrown. Rival governments operated for years in different parts of the country before a ceasefire agreement was signed in October requiring all foreign fighters and mercenaries to leave Libya within 90 days.
This report includes information from Reuters and AFP.