After a meeting of the foreign ministers of the U.S., U.K., France and Germany in Paris, the Biden administration said Thursday it would accept an EU invitation for negotiations on rejoining the Iran nuclear agreement.
Enrique Mora, the deputy secretary general of the EU’s foreign policy arm, the European External Action Service, said he was prepared to invite all the parties for a meeting.
Ned Price, the U.S. State Department spokesman, issued a statement saying Washington was willing to rejoin talks.
“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,” Price said.
It was not immediately clear if Iran would be willing to attend. Tehran has insisted the U.S. should first lift all sanctions reimposed by former President Donald Trump as a condition for returning to the deal. Washington, in turn, has called on Iran to return to compliance with its commitments under the agreement, which it backed away from in response to Trump’s move.
Following the Paris meeting, which U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attended remotely, the U.S., U.K., France and Germany issued a lengthy joint statement warning Iran not to embark on any further violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), “particularly at this time of renewed diplomatic opportunity.”
“The E3 [France, Germany and the U.K.] and the United States affirmed their shared objective of Iran’s return to full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA. Secretary Blinken reiterated that, as President [Joe] 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.
The E3 powers, all signatories to the original 2015 agreement, continue to back it but have warned Iran about violations. The joint statement expressed “shared concerns over Iran’s recent actions to produce both uranium enriched up to 20 percent and uranium metal” saying such activities had “no credible civilian justification” and that the latter activity was a “key step in the development of a nuclear weapon.”
However, the European foreign ministers at the meeting “welcomed the prospect of a U.S. and Iranian return to compliance with the JCPOA,” the statement said.
In a sign the Europeans are keen not to alienate Tehran even as they embrace the new Biden administration in Washington, European Council President Charles Michel on Thursday spoke by phone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
According to a summary of the conversation provided by Michel’s office, he expressed concern over Iran’s “departure” from its commitments under the nuclear deal but also stressed “the EU will continue to deploy efforts to facilitate the full implementation of the JCPOA and the return of the United States of America to the agreement” — an acknowledgment that it was Trump who unilaterally abandoned the accord in 2018 and reimposed economic sanctions on Iran.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna including the International Atomic Energy Agency, called on the U.S. and Iran to act in unison to return to the nuclear accord and to avoid an unnecessary standoff.
“Childish disputes about who must make the first step are absolutely counterproductive,” Ulyanov tweeted. “The process needs to be carefully synchronized.”
This article has been updated.