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Iran mulls EU-proposed 'informal meeting' with US

Iran and the US have been at odds over revival of the 2015 agreement [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 February, 2021

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Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said Iran is studying a European Union proposal for an informal meeting between current members of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal and the United States
Iran is studying a European Union proposal for an informal meeting between current members of Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal and the United States, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Saturday.

"We are studying [EU foreign policy chief] 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," Araqchi said in an interview with state TV.

"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."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had suggested earlier this month a way to overcome the US-Iranian impasse over who goes first in returning to the nuclear deal, saying Borrell could "synchronise" or "choreograph" the moves.

Iran and the United States have been at odds over who should take the first step to revive the 2015 accord.

Iran insists the United States must first lift sanctions put by former President Donald Trump's, while Washington says Tehran must first return to compliance with the deal.

US president Joe Biden urged European powers on Friday to work together to curb Iran's "destabilising" activities in the Middle East, a day after committing to rejoin talks on Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"The threat of nuclear proliferation also continues to require careful diplomacy and cooperation among us," Biden told fellow leaders via teleconference.

"That's why we have said we're prepared to reengage in negotiations with the P5+1 on Iran's nuclear program […] We must also address Iran's destabilizing activities across the Middle East, and we're going to work in close cooperation with our European and other partners as we proceed."

In Iran, UN nuclear watchdog head Rafael Grossi opened talks on Saturday on the eve of Tehran's deadline for US sanctions to be lifted.

The deadline, set by Iranian lawmakers, carries the threat of a suspension of some nuclear inspections, stoking international concern about a possible expulsion of UN inspectors.

"Grossi’s trip has nothing to do with Iran's decision and Iran's decision shall be implemented," Araqchi said. "About 20 to 30% of the IAEA’s [International Atomic Energy Agency] 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," Rabiei was quoted as saying by state media.

Iran accepted curbs to its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions, after the reimposed sanctions after Trump quit the deal in 2018, and Iran's response violating some of the deal's nuclear limits.

Back in January, EU spokesman Peter Stano had said it was in everyone's interest to rescue the deal and said the 27-nation bloc "will strengthen" its attempts to make sure all adhere to the commitments made in the landmark deal.

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