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PoliticsMiddle East

Iran: EU could mediate in nuclear deal dispute

February 2, 2021

Iran's foreign minister has asked the European Union to help mediate in its dispute over the nuclear deal with the United States. Both sides have previously insisted that the other must act first in reviving the pact.

A view of the nuclear enrichment plant of Natanz in central Iran on Friday
Iran has ramped up its nuclear enrichment program since the US pulled out of the deal in 2018Image: picture-alliance/dpa/EPA/STR

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the European Union could play a mediating role in the dispute with the United States over Tehran's nuclear program.

Zarif said EU Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Borrell could coordinate a synchronized return of Washington and Tehran into a nuclear deal, in comments during a CNN interview on Monday.

The minister said the necessary steps could be taken simultaneously, in response to a question on whether Iran still required the US to act first. He said Borrell could facilitate this as part of his role as coordinator of the joint commission for the nuclear agreement. 

"You know clearly there can be a mechanism to basically either synchronize it, or coordinate what can be done," he told interviewer Christiane Amanpour.

Borrell can "sort of choreograph the actions that are needed to be taken by the United States and the actions that are needed to be taken by Iran," Zarif said.

He said Iran could roll back its increased uranium enrichment program "in less than a day" if the US dropped sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and returned to the 2015 international nuclear agreement.

"The United States needs to come back into compliance and Iran will be ready immediately to respond. The timing is not the issue," Zarif said.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif says Iran could roll back its uranium enrichment program if the US lifted sanctionsImage: Russian Foreign Ministry Press Office/dpa/picture-alliance

Change of message

US President Joe Biden has indicated he would be willing to return to the agreement — controversially scrapped by Trump in 2018 — if Iran genuinely abides by the limits of that deal and rolls back its increased production.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has previously demanded that the US make the first move in settling the dispute as it was Washington that pulled out of the deal.

It has threatened to block inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) if the US does not return to the accord, which also included Britain, France and Germany, as well as Russia and China. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Monday that the dispute won't be resolved overnight. 

"If it decides to come back into the agreement — that may take some time, then it's gonna take us some time to assess whether they, in fact, had made good on their obligations," Blinken told NBC News.

The deal, brokered by the Obama administration, promised Iran relief from economic sanctions if it limited its nuclear program to make it harder to develop nuclear weapons.

Zarif's latest comments may be laying the groundwork for talks on reviving the deal, analysts said.

"It is entirely unsurprising to me that we are hearing, amid a largely uncompromising position from the Iranians, occasional breadcrumbs that will enable them" to enter into a negotiation, said Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution.

aw/nm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)