United States signals it is ready to resume nuclear talks with Iran

A parachutist is seen with the Iranian flag in Teheran, during celebrations for the 42nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS) - The United States is prepared to talk to Iran about both countries returning to compliance with a 2015 deal that aims to stop Teheran from developing a nuclear weapon, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told European allies on Thursday (Feb 18).

In a joint statement issued by Britain, France, Germany and the United States, the European nations welcomed US President Joe Biden's intention to return to diplomacy with Iran.

After talks in Paris, which Blinken joined by video link, they affirmed their shared objective of Iran's return to full compliance to commitments of the deal, known as the JCPOA.

"Secretary Blinken reiterated that, as President Biden has said, if Iran comes back into strict compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, the United States will do the same and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end," the joint statement said.

Iran began breaching the deal in 2019 in response to a US withdrawal from the deal under then-president Donald Trump, and has been locked in a standoff with Biden's administration over who should move first to save the accord.

Iran has accelerated its breaches in recent months.

Teheran has set a deadline of next week for Biden to begin reversing sanctions imposed by Trump, or says it will take its biggest step yet to breach the deal - banning short-notice inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog permitted under an Additional Protocol.

Britain, France and Germany, known as the E3, and the United States called on Iran not to take any additional steps "with respect to the suspension of the Additional Protocol and to any limitations on IAEA verification activities in Iran".

The ministers said they were determined that Iran should not get a nuclear weapon and "expressed their shared concerns over Iran's recent actions to produce both uranium enriched up to 20 per cent and uranium metal", the statement added.

It was the second time Blinken had held discussions with his European counterparts since Biden took office last month promising to work more closely with allies than his predecessor.

"We're obviously concerned about the risk of further non-compliance by Iran with the JCPOA," British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said after the talks.

"All the more reason to re-invigorate trans-Atlantic diplomacy."

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: "I am pleased that the new US administration is returning to the path of diplomacy."

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