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US presses Iran for swift return to languishing nuclear talks

Foreign diplomats have been meeting Iran’s foreign minister on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly to gauge Tehran’s willingness to return to the talks in Vienna

TV cameras in front of the 'Grand Hotel Vienna' where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 20, 2021. (AP/Florian Schroetter)
TV cameras in front of the 'Grand Hotel Vienna' where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 20, 2021. (AP/Florian Schroetter)

NEW YORK (AP) — The Biden administration is imploring Iran to quickly return to talks on its nuclear program after a three-month hiatus caused by its government transition, warning that the window for negotiations may soon close.

A senior administration official said Thursday that US patience is wearing thin and that further delays while Iran continues to expand its atomic capabilities could lead Washington and its partners to conclude a return to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal is no longer worthwhile.

The official, who briefed reporters on condition that he not be identified by name, spoke as diplomats from the remaining parties to the agreement have been meeting Iran’s foreign minister on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly to gauge Tehran’s willingness to return to the talks in Vienna.

While Iran has said it is ready to rejoin the talks, it has not yet offered a date for a resumption, named a negotiating team or indicated that it is willing to pick up where the negotiations left off in June, according to the US official.

In discussions with representatives from the remaining parties to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union — the official said all of them had agreed on the importance of resuming the talks as soon as possible.

If the talks don’t resume, the official said the US would at some point determine that Iran was no longer interested in the benefits that the accord offered or that its recent technological advances could not be undone by the limits it imposed.

Iran’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Kazem Gharib Abadi, Political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Abbas Araghchi, and Deputy Secretary-General and Political Director of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Enrique Mora leave the Grand Hotel Vienna where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (AP/Lisa Leutner)

The UN’s atomic watchdog has said Iran is increasingly in violation of the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, which former president Donald Trump withdrew the US from in 2018. The US has participated indirectly in the Vienna talks, which were aimed at bringing both Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the deal.

Israel has consistently urged against the resumption of the 2018 deal, although Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has adopted a more subtle approach on the issue than his predecessor. When Bennett addresses the UN General Assembly on Monday, Iran’s nuclear efforts are expected to be a major focus of his speech.

The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, met Tuesday with Iran’s new foreign minister, who reiterated Tehran’s “willingness to resume negotiations at an early date,” the EU said. Borrell met Wednesday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Borrell stressed “the need for full cooperation” from Iran and reiterated his concern about the overall trajectory of the Iranian nuclear program,” the EU statement said.

The last round of talks in Vienna ended in June, ahead of Iran’s elections that boosted the ranks of hard-liners. There had been speculation that the remaining parties to the deal would meet on the sidelines of this week’s UN General Assembly. But the US official said Iran had declined the opportunity to meet.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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