The Biden administration said on Thursday that it was ready to join talks with Iran and world powers to discuss a return to the 2015 nuclear deal. It has also reversed the Trump administration’s decision that all UN sanctions against Iran had been restored and eased severe restrictions on the domestic US travel of Iranian diplomats sent to the UN.
The State Department said the United States would accept an invitation from the European Union to attend a meeting between the participants in the original agreement. The United States has not attended a meeting between these participants since former President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018.
“The United States accepts an invitation from the High Representative of the European Union to attend a meeting with P5 + 1 and Iran to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Such an invitation has not yet been issued, but one is expected soon after discussions earlier Thursday between Foreign Minister Antony Blinken and his British, French and German counterparts.
Meanwhile, under the auspices of the UN, the Security Council announced that it had withdrawn Trump’s invocation in September 2020 of the so-called “snapback” mechanism, according to which it claimed that all UN sanctions against Iran had been reintroduced. That determination had been strongly questioned by almost all other UN members and had left the United States isolated to the world body.
In another move, officials said the administration has facilitated extremely strict limits on Iranian diplomats’ travel accredited to the UN. The Trump administration had imposed the strict restrictions, which essentially limited them to their UN mission and the UN headquarters in New York.
Earlier on Thursday, Blinken and the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France called on Iran to allow continued UN nuclear inspections and to stop nuclear activities that have no credible civilian use. They warned that Iran’s actions could threaten sensitive efforts to reintroduce the United States into the 2015 agreement and halt sanctions that hurt Iran’s economy.
Iran is “playing with fire,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who took part in talks with his British and French counterparts in Paris on Thursday. Blinken had agreed via video conference.
Iran has said it will halt some of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspections of its nuclear facilities next week if the West does not implement its own commitments under the 2015 agreement. The agreement has been dissolved since Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement.
Blinken reiterated that “if Iran returns to strict compliance with its commitments … the United States will do the same,” according to a joint statement after Thursday’s meeting that reflected closer transatlantic positions in Iran since President Joe Biden took office.
The diplomats noted “the dangerous nature of a decision to restrict IAEA access, and urges Iran to consider the consequences of such a serious act, especially at this time for renewed diplomatic opportunity.”
They said Iran’s decision to produce uranium enriched up to 20% and uranium metal has “no credible” civilian use.
The 2015 agreement aims to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Tehran denies seeking such an arsenal.
“We are the ones who have kept this agreement alive in recent years, and now it is about supporting the United States in taking the path back to the agreement,” Maas told reporters in Paris.
“The measures that have been taken in Tehran and can be taken in the coming days are anything but useful. They are jeopardizing the Americans’ path back to this agreement. The more pressure is exerted, the more difficult it becomes politically to find a solution, he says.
Iran’s threats are “very worrying”, said British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, stressing the need “to re-engage diplomatically to hold back Iran, but also to bring it back to compliance.”
Diplomats also expressed concern about human rights abuses in Iran and its ballistic missile program.
In Iran, President Hassan Rouhani expressed hope on Thursday that the Biden government will reunite and lift US sanctions imposed by Washington under Trump, according to state television.
Tehran has used its violations of the nuclear deal to put pressure on the remaining signatories – France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China – to give Iran more incentives to compensate for the crippling sanctions.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the President of the European Council spoke with Rouhani this week to try to end diplomatic resistance. The head of the IAEA is scheduled to travel to Iran this weekend to find a solution that will allow the agency to continue the inspections.