European Union aims for meeting on Iran nuclear deal with U.S., official says

Friday, 19 Feb, 2021

Israeli Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs, Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, have rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's nominee to lead Tel Aviv's contacts with the United States and the other signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, local media outlets have reported. Iran insists that the US should return to the deal first before it makes any moves.

The prospect of direct talks arose days ahead of an Iranian deadline for restricting the access of United Nations inspectors to the country's nuclear facilities if sanctions are not lifted.

Rafael Mariano Grossi - Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is preparing to fly to Iran to inspect the country's nuclear facilities, unless new restrictions imposed by Iran prevent it.

"It has been a month now that the Biden administration has been continuing Trump's "maximum pressure" policy of lawlessness, one-upmanship, and bullying", he said, adding that further pressure against Iran would not work and that Washington should give up on its "failed" approach.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, tweeted today that "there is no 5+1 anymore", stressing that the US must lift all sanctions against Iran.

However, a senior Iranian official told Reuters that Tehran was considering Washington's offer to talk about the revival of the deal.

Iran says the USA must first lift Mr Trump's sanctions, while Washington says Teheran must first return to compliance with the deal, which it began violating after Mr Trump launched his "maximum-pressure" campaign.

Even if the meeting does happen, one of the officials noted, it would not necessarily be a "breakthrough", but it was the first step toward a return to diplomacy.

In a joint statement yesterday, the E3 and United States foreign ministers expressed their "shared fundamental security interest" in upholding the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and ensuring that Iran can never develop a nuclear weapon. The accord has been unraveling since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement. But it will be a reprieve for the officials affected.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal has looked increasingly fragile since former USA president Donald Trump pulled the United States out of it in 2018.

President Hassan Rouhani wants to save the accord and his legacy before he leaves office later this year, but he's determined not to cave into U.S. demands.

Tehran has been using its violations of the nuclear deal to increase pressure on the JCPOA's remaining signatories, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, to provide additional incentives to Iran to offset the crippling American sanctions re-imposed after the United States pulled out of the agreement in 2018.

Israel, and many Gulf states also anxious about Iran's expansionism, are hoping a broader deal can be negotiated that will include longer-lasting limitations on the nuclear program, as well as limits on Tehran's ballistic missiles and support for regional proxy groups. Iran has called on the Biden administration to first lift the sanctions. The Trump administration also showed a willingness to target companies based in Europe for doing business with Tehran, an effort that angered allies and complicated moves to keep the nuclear accord alive.

The administration of Joe Biden has said it is prepared to rejoin the deal and start lifting sanctions if Iran returns to full compliance, a precondition disputed by Tehran.

The remarks come after acting US Ambassador Richard Mills writing a letter to the United Nations, in which he announced Washington's decision to rescind the Trump administration's move to re-impose United Nations sanctions against Iran. The E3 welcomed the new USA administration's stated intention "to return to diplomacy with Iran".