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French President Emmanuel Macron, left, hugs Israel's Prime Minister Yair Lapid ON July 5, 2022 at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Image Credit: AP

Paris: Israel’s new interim prime minister, Yair Lapid, warned that continuation of the status quo with Iran may lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that would “threaten world peace.”

Lapid spoke before meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday in Paris, where the two leaders are expected to discuss efforts to revive the nuclear deal with Iran and tensions on Israel’s disputed maritime border with Lebanon.

Lapid said France and Israel are in broad agreement on taking a new approach to Iran.

“We may have disagreements about the content of the agreement, but we do not disagree on the facts,” he said in a statement at the Elyse palace, referring to the 2015 accord that curbed Iranian nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief. “The facts are that Iran is violating the agreement and continues to develop its nuclear program.”

The Paris visit was originally planned by Israel’s Naftali Bennett, but his coalition government collapsed before he was able to go. Lapid, who took over as premier last month, said he would also use his first foreign trip to raise the issue of Saturday’s attempt by Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to fly three surveillance drones toward an Israeli oil rig in contested waters.

Lapid accused Iran of making the drones and said Israel wouldn’t “sit back and do nothing” in the face of Hezbollah attacks.

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French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and Israel's Prime Minister Yair Lapid wave Tuesday, July 5, 2022 at the Elysee Palace in Paris. It was the first overseas trip by Yair Lapid since he took office last week. (AP Photo/Thomas Padilla) Image Credit: AP

Lapid is taking the issue to Macron because of France’s close connections to Lebanon, where it was a colonial power, and because the French president has repeatedly sought to broker a resolution to the country’s political and economic crisis. The US has been mediating efforts to demarcate the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon to end a dispute over offshore energy exploration. No agreement has so far been reached.

Macron criticised Iran for a lack of progress at the latest round of nuclear talks in Qatar, while saying he maintained hope for a deal.

“We therefore must defend this agreement, take into account the security interests of our friends in the region - first and foremost of Israel, and complete it with even stronger negotiations on ballistic and regional activities,” he said. “I can only see and regret that Iran is refusing the opportunity to sign a good agreement.”

The European Union has been the key mediator between Iran and the US in the latest effort to revive the 2015 accord, which the US exited under former President Donald Trump.

The two leaders will also discuss Israel’s plans to boost gas exports to Egypt following the arrival of the floating oil rig last month.