The top diplomats of Britain, France, Germany and the United States met Friday for the first time in almost three years for talks that included discussions on Iran, as the European allies welcomed America’s return to center stage in world affairs under US President Joe Biden.
The foreign ministers of the three European nations and the US secretary of state held virtual talks on topics that included Iran, China, Russia, Myanmar, climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.
The last time the top foreign affairs officials from the four countries met as a quartet was in April 2018.
The meeting of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian came a day after Biden told US diplomats at the State Department: “America is back. Diplomacy is back.”
“The foreign ministers agreed that they want to revive the traditionally close transatlantic partnership and tackle global challenges together in future,” the German foreign ministry said in a statement.
“This first, in-depth exchange between the foreign ministers since President Biden’s inauguration was characterized by a trusting and constructive atmosphere,” the statement read.
“The E3 and the US discussed how a united approach could address our shared concerns towards Iran,” tweeted British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, with E3 referring to the three European signatories to the 2015 Iran deal.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Twitter described the talks as an “important conversation on Iran” and handling nuclear and regional security challenges “together.”
French President Emmanuel Macron offered Thursday to be an “honest broker” in talks between the United States and Iran in order to revive the 2015 nuclear accord.
Former US president Donald Trump took the US out of the accord in 2018 and hit Iran with numerous sanctions, and it has since largely collapsed, with Tehran returning to enriching uranium to degrees and amounts beyond the caps set by the deal.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the ministers had “affirmed the centrality of the Transatlantic relationship in dealing with security, climate, economic, health, and other challenges the world faces.” He added that Blinken “underscored the US commitment to coordinated action to overcome global challenges.” The statement offered no other details.
The meeting was held after Biden convened his National Security Council to discuss Iran. Ahead of that meeting the White House said it was part of an ongoing policy review and that no announcement would be made on the discussions.
Last month, Tehran announced it was beginning to enrich uranium up to 20 percent — far beyond the 3.5% permitted under the nuclear deal, and a relatively small technical step away from the 90% needed for a nuclear weapon. Iran also said it was beginning research into uranium metal, a material that technically has civilian uses but is seen as another likely step toward a nuclear bomb.
The United Nations’ nuclear agency said Iran has continued to ramp up its nuclear program in recent weeks by further enriching uranium and installing new centrifuges at its underground Natanz plant, according to a Tuesday report. Iran insists it is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Biden has turned sharply away from the “America first” policies of his predecessor Trump on issues such as climate change and Russia. One of Biden’s first acts as president was reversing Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord.
Biden said Thursday that the days of the US “rolling over” to Russian President Vladimir Putin were over. He committed to reversing Trump’s order to withdraw US troops stationed in Germany and ending support for Saudi Arabia’s military offensive in Yemen.
Britain, which is heading the G-7 group of industrialized nations this year and is set to host a global climate conference in November, has welcomed the United States’ renewed focus on engaging with its allies around the world.
The UK is also seeking new ways to exert influence now that it has left the European Union, such as working with small groups of like-minded countries on major issues.