US accepts talks with Iran, backtracks on Trump sanctions

US accepts talks with Iran, backtracks on Trump sanctions

US accepts talks with Iran, backtracks on Trump sanctions

The US said on Thursday it was ready to meet with Iran and reversed Donald Trump’s claims of new UN sanctions, providing an opening to jumpstart nuclear diplomacy.

Hours after Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his European counterparts, the US welcomed a proposal to convene talks of all nations that were part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The EU political director, Enrique Mora, afterward proposed via Twitter an informal meeting of all participants, saying the nuclear accord was at a “critical moment” — ahead of a weekend deadline for Iran to restrict some UN nuclear inspections.

“The United States would accept an invitation from the European Union High Representative to attend a meeting of the P5+1 and Iran to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

The group which sealed the 2015 deal includes the United States and Iran as well as Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

Former president Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord and instead imposed sweeping sanctions aimed at bringing Iran to its knees.

But President Joe Biden has supported a return to diplomacy, saying that the 2015 accord was effective in reducing Tehran’s nuclear programme.

It remains to be seen if Iran will also be willing to sit down with the United States.

Iran has insisted that the United States first lift sanctions before it returns to full compliance with the 2015 accord, reversing steps it took in protest against Trump’s measures.

In one step Thursday, the Biden administration said it was no longer contending that the United Nations had imposed new sanctions on Iran.

In a letter, the acting US ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Mills, said that sanctions said to be reinstated in August “remain terminated”.

Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo had argued that the United States was still technically a participant in the 2015 accord and was triggering UN sanctions for violations.

Even close US allies dismissed the argument and the United Nations said that no such additional sanctions had come into force.

Earlier on Thursday, Blinken and the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France urged Iran to allow continued UN nuclear inspections and stop nuclear activities that have no credible civilian use. They warned that Iran’s actions could threaten delicate efforts to bring the US back into the 2015 deal and end sanctions damaging Iran’s economy.

Iran is “playing with fire,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who took part in the talks on Thursday in Paris with his British and French counterparts. Blinken had joined via videoconference.

Iran has said it will stop part of International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of its nuclear facilities next week if the West doesn’t implement its own commitments under the 2015 deal. The accord has been unraveling since Trump pulled the US out of the agreement.

Blinken reiterated that “if Iran comes back into strict compliance with its commitments ... the United States will do the same,” according to a joint statement after Thursday’s meeting that reflected closer trans-Atlantic positions on Iran since President Joe Biden took office.