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Blinken: Return to Iran deal could be ‘very hard’ if talks drag on

France urges Iran ‘to take the final decisions’ to enable restoration of 2015 deal limiting Tehran’s nuclear program

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attend a joint press conference at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, on June 25, 2021. (GONZALO FUENTES/POOL/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attend a joint press conference at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, on June 25, 2021. (GONZALO FUENTES/POOL/AFP)

PARIS — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday warned Iran that the United States could eventually give up on rejoining a nuclear deal if talks in Vienna drag on.

“There will come a point, yes, where it will be very hard to return back to the standards set by the JCPOA,” Blinken told reporters in Paris, referring to the 2015 nuclear accord from which former US president Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.

At the press conference alongside Blinken, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the responsibility now lies with Iran.

“We expect the Iranian authorities to take the final decisions — no doubt difficult ones — which will allow the negotiations to be concluded” in Vienna, Le Drian said Friday.

Parties to the nuclear deal — Britain, China, Germany, France, Russia and Iran — have been meeting in Vienna for months with indirect US participation in order to restore the deal, which promised Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curtailing its nuclear program.

On Sunday, Iran’s envoy to the talks, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, said they were close to a deal but that gaps remain.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi leaves the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna’ where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, June 12, 2021. (Florian Schroetter/AP)

“We are now closer to an agreement than ever. But it is not an easy task to close the distance currently between us and an agreement,” Araghchi told Iran’s national television. “At this point, it is clear which fields, which actions are possible and which are not. Therefore, it is time for all sides, especially our counterparts, to be able to make their final decision.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is slated to fly to Rome on Sunday to meet face-to-face with Blinken. The Iranian nuclear negotiations are slated to be at the top of the agenda for the two diplomats.

Israel staunchly opposes US President Joe Biden’s plan to reenter the JCPOA, which he has said he’s prepared to do provided Iran returns to compliance with the agreement.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi met with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in Washington this week to discuss security concerns, with the threat of a nuclear Iran chief among them.

From left, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and United Nations Gilad Erdan, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan meet in Washington on June 23, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Kohavi railed against the US plan to rejoin the 2015 deal during the meeting with Sullivan and other top American defense officials, according to the IDF. Kohavi reiterated the “failures of the current nuclear deal” and attempted to convince the American officials of alternative methods of preventing Iran from obtaining an atomic weapon, the military said.

Sullivan told Kohavi that US President Joe Biden has a “commitment to ensuring that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon,” according to the White House. He also “reaffirmed President Biden’s unwavering support for Israel’s security and commitment to continuing to strengthen the defense partnership between the two countries.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday opened the first cabinet meeting of his new government with a condemnation of the newly elected Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi. He said Iran’s choice was a sign for world powers to “wake up” before returning to a nuclear agreement with Tehran.

“A regime of brutal hangmen must never be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction that will enable it to not kill thousands, but millions,” the prime minister said, speaking briefly in English.

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