EU’s top diplomat says Iran, world powers won’t meet on nuclear deal at UN

France had hoped for progress in nuclear talks; negotiations for return to the accord have stalled in recent months, as new government took power in Tehran

Member state flags fly outside the United Nations headquarters during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Member state flags fly outside the United Nations headquarters during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday that foreign ministers from the countries that are signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran were set to meet with Tehrani officials at the United Nations this week. Le Drian said he hoped the meeting would build positive momentum towards kick-starting stalled talks over the nuclear deal.

But speaking afterward, Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said a meeting would not take place at the UN.

Borrell will meet Tuesday with his Iranian counterpart to urge him to resume talks “as soon as possible.”

It was not immediately clear why the meeting would not take place.

The foreign ministers of China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain had been expected to meet to try to relaunch talks aimed at getting the United States back into the pact.

“We will without doubt have a meeting of the joint commission of the JCPOA, in all likelihood in the week,” Le Drian had told reporters.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the agreement the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain reached with Iran on Tehran’s nuclear program in 2015.

Former US president Donald Trump pulled America out of the deal in 2018, reinstating sanctions on Iran that Washington had lifted as part of the agreement.

Since then, Tehran has also retreated from many of its commitments.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian gives a press conference at Bayan palace in Kuwait City, March 31, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/STR)

Trump’s successor Joe Biden has indicated he wants to return to the deal, but his administration has expressed impatience at the stalled talks.

Le Drian told reporters on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly high-level meeting that a resumption of talks had not occurred because of Iran, which elected a new president in June.

“It is important to ensure that during this week we can try to engage a positive dynamic to resume the Vienna discussions on the return of Iran and the United States to the JCPOA,” he added.

Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, is in New York this week.

He is due to hold bilateral talks with his German, Chinese, French, British and Russian counterparts. They are all parties to the Iran nuclear agreement.

No meeting is planned with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Qatari capital Doha, on September 7, 2021. (Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett assured US President Joe Biden at the White House last month that he would not publicly campaign against Washington’s efforts to coax Iran back to the 2015 accord. That was a departure from Bennett’s predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu, who campaigned aggressively against the JCPOA and even accepted an invitation to address a joint session of Congress where he unsuccessfully lobbied lawmakers against the deal in 2015, aggravating an already growing rift between Israel and the US Democratic Party.

Bennett, however, has also made it clear that he opposes a return to the nuclear deal.

Israeli officials have warned they are also preparing to deal with Iran’s program militarily if the need arises.

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