Iran studying EU-proposed informal meeting with US over nuclear deal

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DUBAI – Iran is studying a European Union proposal for an informal meeting between current members of Teheran’s 2015 nuclear deal and the United States, but has yet to respond to it, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said.

Iran and the US have been at odds over who should take the first step to revive the 2015 accord. Iran insists that the US must first lift former president Donald Trump’s sanctions, while Washington says Teheran must first return to compliance with the deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested earlier this a way to overcome the US-Iranian impasse over who goes first in returning to the nuclear deal, saying EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell could “synchronise” or “choreograph” the moves.

“We are studying Josep Borrell’s proposal to hold an informal meeting of the 4 + 1 (nuclear deal members) with the United States and Iran, and we are consulting with our partners, including Russia and China, and we will respond to this proposal in the future,” Mr Araqchi said in an interview with state TV.

“However, we believe a US return to the nuclear accord does not require a meeting and the only way for it is to lift the sanctions,” Mr Araqchi said.

The White House said last Friday that the US plans to take no additional actions in response to pressure from Iran before potential talks with Teheran and major powers about returning to the deal.

White House spokesman Jen Psaki said the EU had floated the idea of a conversation among Iran and the six major powers that struck the nuclear accord.

“The Europeans have invited us and…it is simply an invitation to have a conversation, a conversation,” she said.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mr Rafael Grossi, arrived in Teheran on Saturday, weeks after Iran’s hardline Parliament set a deadline of Feb 23 for Washington to lift the sanctions, or Teheran would halt snap the agency’s inspections.

“Grossi’s trip has nothing to do with Iran’s decision and Iran’s decision shall be implemented,” Mr Araqchi said. “About 20 to 30 per cent of the IAEA’s oversight capacity will be reduced as a result of the implementation of the parliament’s decision.”

Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei said earlier that Iran believed sanctions would soon be lifted despite continued “diplomatic wrangling” over reviving the nuclear deal, signalling Teheran’s desire to end the impasse while not offering a new position.

“We predict with confidence that diplomatic initiatives will result in a favourable outcome despite the diplomatic wrangling, which are a natural prelude to the return of the parties to their , including the lifting of all sanctions in the near future,” Mr Rabiei was quoted as saying by state media.

Under the deal with major powers, Iran accepted curbs to its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions. Washington reimposed sanctions after Mr Trump quit the deal in 2018, and Iran responded by some of the deal’s nuclear limits.

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