PARIS: The United States is prepared to talk to Iran about both countries returning to compliance with a 2015 deal that aims to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told European allies on Thursday.
Blinken told his French, German and British counterparts that President Joe Biden’s administration would return to the accord, known as the JCPOA, if Iran fell back into full compliance with the deal.
“Secretary Blinken reiterated that, as President Biden has said, if Iran comes back into strict compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, the United States will do the same and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end," the joint statement said.
London, Paris and Berlin welcomed Biden’s intention to return to diplomacy with Iran. But Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif fired back that it was for Washington to make the first move.
Iran began breaching the deal in 2019 after then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal and reimposed economic sanctions.
Tehran has accelerated its breaches in recent months and become locked in a standoff with Biden’s administration over who should move first to save the accord.
“Instead of sophistry & putting onus on Iran, E3/EU must abide by own commitments & demand an end to Trump’s legacy of #EconomicTerrorism against Iran," Zarif said in a tweet.
“Our remedial measures are a response to US/E3 violations. Remove the cause if you fear the effect," he continued. “We’ll follow ACTION w/ (with) action."
A French diplomatic source said Washington’s shift marked an opening for Iran but that the path ahead was fraught with obstacles.
Tehran has set a deadline of next week for Biden to begin reversing sanctions imposed by Trump, or says it will take its biggest step yet to breach the deal - banning short-notice inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog permitted under an Additional Protocol.
Britain, France and Germany, known collectively as the E3, and the United States called on Iran not to take any additional steps “with respect to the suspension of the Additional Protocol and to any limitations on IAEA verification activities in Iran".
The ministers said they were determined that Iran should not get a nuclear weapon and “expressed their shared concerns over Iran’s recent actions to produce both uranium enriched up to 20% and uranium metal", the statement added.
Refining uranium to high levels of fissile purity is a potential pathway to nuclear bombs, though Iran has long said it its enrichment programme is for peaceful energy purposes only.
Enrichment of 20% is well above the deal’s 3.67% limit, though still well below the 90% that is weapons grade.
It was the second time Blinken had held discussions with his European counterparts since Biden took office last month promising to work more closely with allies than his predecessor.
“We’re obviously concerned about the risk of further non-compliance by Iran with the JCPOA," British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said after the talks. “All the more reason to re-invigorate trans-Atlantic diplomacy."
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: “I am pleased that the new U.S. administration is returning to the path of diplomacy."
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