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Iran offers to talk to Europeans about restarting nuclear negotiations

Iranian source tells state media country formally notified Britain, France, and Germany it is willing to meet with reps on their turf or in Tehran, but so far has had no response

Screen capture from video of Iran's top nuclear negotiator Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, 2020. (YouTube)
Screen capture from video of Iran's top nuclear negotiator Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, 2020. (YouTube)

Iran has formally suggested to the three European countries signed on a landmark 2015 nuclear deal that they hold talks about a return to negotiations aimed at saving the unraveling pact, the state-owned Press TV outlet reported Wednesday.

The proposal comes as the United States has said its patience was running thin with the Islamic Republic’s excuses for not directly returning to stalled European Union-sponsored talks in Vienna to revive the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Citing an anonymous source familiar with the developments, Press TV said that Iran had told Britain, France, and Germany that it was willing to meet with their representatives either in their own capitals or in Tehran. The purpose of the talks would be to discuss the restarting of the Vienna negotiations on reviving the JCPOA, the report said.

So far there has been no response to the offer, the source noted, rejecting a Tuesday Wall Street Journal report that said Iran had declined a request from those countries to hold discussions.

Top Iranian nuclear negotiator Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri is in Brussels for separate talks with the European Union’s Deputy Secretary-General Enrique Mora. In an effort to save time, Britain, France and Germany told Bagheri they were willing to send representatives to join the meetings with Mora. WSJ reporter Laurence Norman tweeted Tuesday that Bagheri had turned down the idea.

“This looks like out and out time-wasting even as Iran tries to create [an] image of engagement,” Norman tweeted.

On Monday US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley said Iran’s explanations for staying away from nuclear talks in Vienna were “wearing thin.”

Malley called Iran’s actions “in contradiction or inconsistent with what they claim to be their desire to come back to the JCPOA,” while saying the US was ready to adapt to a reality in which Iran does not return to the nuclear deal.

The US, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain struck the JCPOA accord in Vienna with Iran on its nuclear program in 2015.

The nuclear deal began to fall apart in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from it and reinstated sanctions. Iran in turn again started to ramp up its nuclear activities, particularly enrichment of uranium which is bringing it nearer to the threshold of making a bomb.

Talks began in April in Vienna between Tehran and the remaining five parties to the 2015 deal, aimed at bringing Washington back into the agreement. But that dialogue has been stalled since the sixth round of talks in June, when ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi won Iran’s presidential election.

Though the preference is to find a diplomatic solution, Malley reiterated that the US would use “other tools” to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons if the Vienna talks fail.

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