February 20, 2021

Hopes return for Iran nuclear deal as US says prepared to re-engage

Hopes return for Iran nuclear deal as US says prepared to re-engage

Hopes returned for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Friday, as Washington said it was prepared to re-engage in diplomacy on the badly damaged accord, and Tehran did not rule out a meeting.

The United States is prepared to re-engage with international partners in the so-called P5+1 group – China, France, Russia, Britain, US plus Germany – on Iran’s nuclear programme, President Joe Biden told the Munich Security Conference on Friday.

“We must also address Iran’s destabilizing activities across the Middle East,” Biden cautioned. “And we’re going to work in close cooperation with our European and other partners as we proceed.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the move, saying she was hopeful that the agreement could be rescued.

“If everyone is convinced that the deal should be given another chance, then ways should be found to get the agreement going again,” Merkel said on Friday.

“At least I will work to bring new momentum to the negotiations,” she said.

However, she conceded that there was still a “diplomatic balancing act” ahead.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Friday that Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have discussed the situation in Iran with their foreign counterparts since the first day of the administration.

“We are now quite clearly in lockstep with our allies from Europe,” Price said.

“We have expressed our willingness to take part in a meeting with the Iranians in the context of the P5+1. This is only a first step,” he added.

Iran has demanded that US sanctions be lifted before Tehran takes steps to again abide by the agreement, which was dealt an almost fatal blow when the US under former president Donald Trump withdrew.

“There can be no nuclear meeting together with the US because the US has pulled out of the Vienna nuclear agreement,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh wrote on Twitter earlier on Friday.

Nevertheless, the offer to accept a European Union invitation for a return to talks from Biden’s administration is a significant step, after four years during which the Trump administration piled sanctions on Iran.

The deal was reached in 2015 in an effort to prevent Iran from being able to produce nuclear weapons. The deal lifted sanctions in exchange for Iran limiting itself to civilian nuclear applications.

But Trump said the deal still left Iran with a pathway to weapons eventually and didn’t do enough to keep it from interfering in the region. The tough approach was applauded by Middle Eastern countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia, which see Iran as a regional rival.

Since then, as more sanctions arrived, Iran slowly backed out of the deal itself, and this week said it would limit cooperation with international nuclear inspectors.

But it has left a door open to talks. On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted the hashtag #CommitActMeet, which the Foreign Ministry explained on its Farsi Instagram page: If the US committed to its obligations and lifted sanctions, Iran would be ready for a meeting with the US and five other countries who brokered the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Biden’s administration previously called for diplomacy with Iran, but insisted that Tehran must first return to full compliance with the nuclear deal.

Russia on Friday welcomed the apprent moves towards the negotiating table.

The pressure of sanctions had led to a dead end, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by news agency Interfax.

“We remain supporters of this document [nuclear deal] and call on everyone to do everything for its effective implementation,” he said.

But Israel – an arch-enemy of Iran – said its “position on the [Vienna] nuclear agreement has not changed.”

“Israel believes that going back to the old agreement will pave Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal,” according to the prime minister’s office.

Vanguard News Nigeria