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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 2 March 2021

Iran considering EU's proposal of informal talks with US

Tehran and Washington have reached stalemate on who should take first step to revive 2015 nuclear deal

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, said Tehran was open to a Eutropean proposal of informal talks with the US over the 2015 nuclear deal. European Commission EbS - EEAS via Reuters
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, said Tehran was open to a Eutropean proposal of informal talks with the US over the 2015 nuclear deal. European Commission EbS - EEAS via Reuters

Iran is studying a European Union proposal for an informal meeting between current members of Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal and the US, but has yet to respond to it, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said.

Iran and the US have been at odds over who should take the first step to revive the 2015 accord. Iran insists the US must first lift former president Donald Trump's sanctions while Washington says Tehran must first return to compliance with the deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested earlier this month a way to overcome the US-Iranian impasse over who goes first in returning to the nuclear deal, saying EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell could “synchronise” or “choreograph” the moves.

"We are studying Josep Borrell's proposal to hold an informal meeting of the 4 + 1 [nuclear deal members] with the United States and Iran, and we are consulting with our partners, including Russia and China, and we will respond to this proposal in the future," Mr Araqchi said in an interview with state TV on Saturday.

"However, we believe a US return to the nuclear accord does not require a meeting and the only way for it is to lift the sanctions," he said.

The White House said on Friday that the US would take no additional actions in response to pressure from Iran before potential talks with Tehran and major powers about returning to the deal.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the EU had floated the idea of a conversation among Iran and the six major powers that struck the nuclear accord. "The Europeans have invited us and . it is simply an invitation to have a conversation, a diplomatic conversation."

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, arrived in Tehran on Saturday, weeks after Iran's hardline parliament set a deadline of February 23 for Washington to lift the sanctions, or Tehran would halt snap IAEA inspections.

"Grossi's trip has nothing to do with Iran's decision and Iran's decision shall be implemented," Mr Araqchi said. "About 20 to 30 per cent of the IAEA's oversight capacity will be reduced as a result of the implementation of the parliament's decision."

Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei said earlier that Iran believed sanctions would soon be lifted despite continued "diplomatic wrangling" over reviving the nuclear deal, signalling Tehran's desire to end the impasse while not offering a new position.

"We predict with confidence that diplomatic initiatives will result in a favourable outcome despite the diplomatic wrangling, which are a natural prelude to the return of the parties to their commitments, including the lifting of all sanctions in the near future," Mr Rabiei was quoted as saying by state media.

Iran’s parliament in December approved a bill that would suspend part of UN inspections of its nuclear facilities under a 2015 nuclear deal if European signatories do not provide relief from oil and banking sanctions by February 23.

It would also halt an additional protocol that allows the IAEA inspectors to carry out more intrusive inspections to Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Mr Zarif went on to say that ending the IAEA snap inspections was not a breach of the nuclear accord and the steps they have taken over the last few weeks can be easily reversed.

The Iranian foreign minister also went on to reiterate that Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons.

Updated: February 21, 2021 01:20 PM

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