New EU foreign policy chief to make his first visit to Iran
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New EU foreign policy chief to make his first visit to Iran

As Middle East tensions soar, Josep Borrell to meet Islamic Republic’s leaders in effort to salvage nuclear deal; Tehran says latest US sanctions ‘futile’

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell answers a question during a news conference in Brussels, January 7, 2020 (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell answers a question during a news conference in Brussels, January 7, 2020 (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

The European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell is traveling to Iran to meet with the country’s leaders, the Iranian official news agency said on Sunday, amid high regional tensions.

The visit is seen as the latest move by the EU to save the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

Tensions between Iran and the West have steadily risen since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement and reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018. Tehran has responded by gradually rolling back its commitment to the deal.

Borrell will meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other Iranian officials on Monday, according to IRNA.

The visit by Borrell is the first by the EU official after taking office. Borell met the Iranian foreign minister in Brussels in January, when European foreign ministers organized a special meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis.

After the US drone attack that killed Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani in January, Iran announced that it would no longer respect limits set on how many centrifuges it can use to enrich uranium.

Zarif said the move was a “remedial step” taken within the framework of the nuclear deal. He said it could be reversed.

The deal struck in 2015 aims at capping Tehran’s nuclear activities in return for lifting sanctions. Iran signed the accord with the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China.

Meanwhile, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) slammed the latest round of US sanctions, which added Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi to a blacklist.

“Iran’s nuclear program will continue with full force depending on the country’s needs,” AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi was quoted as saying by Fars News on Thursday.

He said the latest US action was part of “futile” efforts that prove Washington’s “desperation” and would “have no impact on Tehran’s unstoppable advancements in the field of peaceful nuclear energy.”

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