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Informal US-Iran nuclear talks set to start soon — NY Times

American and European diplomats say both countries may agree on steps toward returning to the JCPOA

Technicians work at the Arak heavy water reactor's secondary circuit, as officials and media visit the site, near Arak, 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, December 23, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)
Technicians work at the Arak heavy water reactor's secondary circuit, as officials and media visit the site, near Arak, 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, December 23, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

Informal talks between the US and Iran over the return to the nuclear deal could begin in the coming weeks, American and European diplomats told The New York Times in a report Thursday.

When the informal talks do begin, it is expected that the United States and Iran could agree to take simultaneous steps toward coming back into compliance with the 2015 accord, the report said.

Former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and put punishing sanctions on Iran.

Since the US left the deal under Trump, Iran has walked away from the pact’s limitations on its stockpile of uranium and has begun enriching to 20 percent, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels.

An Iranian technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran. February 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

US President Joe Biden and his administration have said they will return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if Tehran first returns to compliance. Iran has insisted the US remove sanctions before it returns to the deal’s terms, putting the two sides at a stalemate.

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have already begun voicing opposition to the Biden administration’s desire to rejoin the deal, putting Jerusalem and Washington at odds on the issue. Some leading Israeli officials in recent months have threatened military action to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

In recent months, Iran has repeatedly taken steps to violate the deal and turn up the heat on the US, including by enriching uranium past the accord’s limits and barring UN inspections of its nuclear facilities.

In addition, Iran has for months threatened retaliation against Israel over the killing of its chief military nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in what was widely attributed to an Israeli Mossad operation. An attempted bombing near the Israeli embassy in India last month, as well as last week’s mine attack on an Israeli cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman, have both been attributed to Iran by Israel.

On Thursday, Israeli and US officials were to hold the first session of a bilateral strategic group aimed at collaborating in the effort to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, an official familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel.

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