US President Joe Biden on Tuesday stressed his commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, reiterating his administration’s willingness to rejoin the 2015 accord limiting the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, Biden also touted American support for Israel’s security and said that the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was “the best way” to ensure Israel remains a Jewish and democratic state.
“The United States remains committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon… We’re prepared to return to full compliance with [the deal] if Iran does the same,” he said.
Biden said that the US was “working” with China, France, Russia, Britain and Germany to “engage Iran diplomatically and to seek a return to” the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which America left in 2018 under then-US president Donald Trump.
Biden has repeatedly stated his commitment to rejoining the accord if Iran reverses its violations of the agreement, which it has increasingly breached since the US pullout.
As he spoke, Iran’s official spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry said that talks on restoring the nuclear deal will resume in the coming weeks.
The talks, which have been held in Vienna, have stalled as Iran’s hardline new president, Ebrahim Raisi, takes power.
Later addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Biden said that the American commitment to Israel’s security “is without question and our support for an independent Jewish state is unequivocal.”
“I continue to believe that a two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable, sovereign and democratic Palestinian state,” he said.
“We’re a long way from this goal at the moment, but we should never allow ourselves to give up on the possibility of progress,” he added.
The US president did not call for an immediate resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which have been on ice since 2014. His administration has instead been encouraging efforts to “advance peace.”
In his address, his first to the UN General Assembly as US president, Biden also said America is not seeking a new Cold War with China as he vowed to pivot from post-9/11 conflicts and take a global leadership role on crises from climate to COVID-19.
Biden promised to work to advance democracy and alliances, despite the latest friction with Europe over France’s loss of a huge submarines contract with Australia to an alternative American deal.
The Biden administration has identified a rising and authoritarian China as the paramount challenge of the 21st century, but in his United Nations debut the president made clear he was not trying to sow divisions.
“We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs,” Biden said.
“The United States is ready to work with any nation that steps up and pursues peaceful resolution to share challenges even if we have intense disagreement in other areas.”
Biden did not mention China by name, other than voicing alarm about human rights in Xinjiang, where experts say more than one million people from the Uyghur and other mostly Muslim populations are incarcerated.
Biden declared himself to be the first US president in 20 years not to be running a war after his controversial pullout of troops from Afghanistan, where the Taliban swiftly took over.
Instead, America is “opening a new era of relentless diplomacy” in which military power must be the “tool of last resort.”
“We’ve ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan, and as we close this period of relentless war, we’re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy, of using the power of our development aid to invest in new ways of lifting people up around the world,” Biden said.
“The mission must be clear and achievable, undertaken with informed consent of the American people and whenever possible in partnership with our allies,” Biden said from the UN rostrum where previous US presidents, notably including George W. Bush, have pushed for military action.
The UN General Assembly is meeting in person for the first time in two years but at limited capacity and with pandemic precautions.
The measures include replacing the microphone after each speaker — likely welcome news for the 78-year-old Biden who spoke after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who defied guidance to only attend if vaccinated.
Biden has called a virtual summit on Wednesday on defeating the pandemic and teased that he will announce “additional commitments.”
“We seek to advance the fight against COVID-19 and hold ourselves accountable around specific targets on three key challenges: saving lives now, vaccinating the world, and building back better,” Biden said.
He also said Washington would double financing on climate change — a key element in reaching an ambitious new accord in November at a UN conference in Glasgow as temperatures and severe weather rise dangerously.
The United Nations says there is a $20 billion shortfall in the $100 billion fund that developed countries promised to mobilize annually from 2020-2025 for helping poorer nations adapt to climate change.