US questions Iran’s willingness to return to nuclear deal compliance

The US secretary of state's comments came the same day that Iran's deal to allow inspectors access to surveillance footage of its nuclear programme expired

FILE PHOTO: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference at the Kangerlussuaq Airport in Greenland, May 20, 2021. Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday questioned Iran’s willingness to return to compliance with the nuclear deal, after weeks of slow-moving talks in Vienna.

Indirect talks with Iran have "clarified what each side needs to do in order to come back into compliance", Mr Blinken told ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

“We know what sanctions would need to be lifted if they’re inconsistent with the nuclear agreement,” he said.

“But as important, and indeed more important, Iran – I think – knows what it needs to do to come back into compliance on the nuclear side. And what we haven’t seen is whether Iran is ready and willing to make a decision to do what it has to do. That’s the test and we don’t yet have an answer.”

Mr Blinken spoke as Iran’s three-month deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency expired. The agreement, brokered in February, allowed the watchdog’s inspectors access to surveillance footage of Iranian nuclear sites.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Qalibaf said yesterday that the inspectors would no longer have access to the surveillance footage.

Mr Blinken repeated that the Biden administration wanted to revive the nuclear deal before addressing issues such as Tehran's funding of proxies across the Middle East.

"The first thing we need to do is put the nuclear problem back in the box," Mr Blinken said. "That's why we're committed to trying to see if Iran will come back into compliance with the nuclear agreement."

Mr Blinken vowed the Biden administration would use a revived nuclear deal “as a platform to build on and to try to deal with these other issues”.

Since former president Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018, Iran has gradually scaled up its breaches of the agreement.

As officials get ready to convene in Vienna this week for the latest round of talks, Mr Blinken is expected to visit the Middle East after the Egypt-brokered ceasefire between ­Israel and Hamas last week.

"We have to deal with making this turn from the violence – we have got the ceasefire – and now deal with the humanitarian situation, deal with reconstruction and deepen our existing engagement with Palestinians and with Israelis alike," he said.

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