US ready for ‘mutual’ steps as world powers to hold nuclear talks with Iran

EU says Friday meeting to focus on possible US return to 2015 accord, which Biden has vowed to rejoin if Tehran comes back into compliance

US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks at the State Department in Washington, March 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)
US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks at the State Department in Washington, March 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)

World powers and Iran will meet by videoconference to discuss the possible return of the United States to the Iran nuclear deal, the European Union announced Thursday, in a development welcomed by Washington.

Representatives of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and Iran — the countries still party to the agreement after the US left — will attend Friday’s meeting.

“Participants will discuss the prospect of a possible return of the United States to the JCPOA, and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement by all sides,” the statement said, referring to the deal by its initials.

The EU said one of its top diplomats, Enrique Mora, would chair the meeting on behalf of foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) welcomes European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell in the capital Tehran on February 3, 2020. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

The State Department praised the meeting and said it would be watched closely by US officials.

“We obviously welcome this as a positive step and that’s precisely because we have been clear for weeks now that we are ready to pursue a return to compliance with our (nuclear deal) commitments consistent with Iran also doing the same,” spokesman Ned Price said. “It’s a positive step, especially if it moves the ball forward on that mutual return to compliance that we’ve talked about for a number of weeks now.”

The meeting will bring together the body that oversees the implementation of the JCPOA, which has been under threat since then-US president Donald Trump pulled out in 2018 and Iran began to resume nuclear activities prohibited under the agreement.

President Joe Biden has said the US will return to the pact if Iran comes back into compliance with the deal. Thus far, Iran has refused to entertain the offer unless the US rescinds sanctions that Trump imposed on it. Iran already rejected an EU proposal for a meeting that included the United States. That proposal came in response to a Biden administration statement that it would accept an invitation to attend such talks.

US President Joe Biden (left) and Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. (Collage, AP)

Earlier this month, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran may return to full compliance if Tehran deems Washington has honored its commitments.

The agreement was signed by Iran in Vienna in 2015 with the major powers United States, China, Russia, Germany, France, United Kingdom, under an EU chair.

It was designed to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring a nuclear arsenal by imposing strict limits on its nuclear program and force it to remain exclusively civilian and peaceful.

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