Iran nuclear deal parties eye US return to accord

The remaining parties to the ailing 2015 Iran nuclear deal say that they are preparing for the possible return of the US to the pact as President-elect Joe Biden readies to take office next month.

Biden, who takes office on January 20, has signaled Washington would rejoin the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear program.

The deal has been unraveling ever since outgoing President Donald Trump dramatically withdrew from it in May 2018 and imposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran.

“Ministers acknowledged the prospect of a return of the US to the JCPOA and underlined their readiness to positively address this in a joint effort,” a statement on behalf of ministers from Iran, China, Russia, Germany, France and the UK says after Monday morning’s online meeting.

Tehran has retaliated to US sanctions by progressively abandoning limits on its nuclear activity laid down in the deal.

Most recently Iran announced it planning to install advanced centrifuges at Iran’s main nuclear enrichment plant in Natanz, a plan condemned by France, Germany and Britain — collectively known as the “E3” — as “deeply worrying.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says that the change of administration in the US meant that there was “a last window” for progress that “shouldn’t be wasted.”

“There can be no more tactical maneuvers of the kind we have seen all too often recently,” Maas warned at a press conference, adding that such actions “would only further undermine the agreement.”

His British counterpart Dominic Raab says that at the meeting he had “made it absolutely clear Iran must not implement the recently announced expansions to its nuclear program.”

“To do so would undermine the opportunities for progress we hope to see in 2021,” Raab adds in a tweet.