Back to 2015 The JCPOA deal is at risk if Tehran does not make concessions during talks, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said.
The United States and France have warned Iran that time is running out to return to a nuclear deal, expressing fears that Tehran’s sensitive atomic activities may progress if talks drag on.
During the first high-level visit to Paris by President Joe Biden’s administration, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his French hosts on Friday hailed a new spirit of cooperation after four years of turmoil under Donald Trump.
But both sides have said that a key promise from Biden – to revert to the 2015 deal on the trumped Iranian nuclear program – was threatened if Tehran did not make concessions in talks that have gone on for months in Vienna. .
Blinken warned that the United States still had “serious differences” with Iran, which has continued to negotiate since last week’s presidential election won by hard-line Ebrahim Raisi.
“There will come a time, yes, when it will be very difficult to return to the standards set by the JCPOA,” Blinken told reporters, using the official name of the agreement.
“We haven’t reached that point – I can’t put a date – but it’s something we are aware of.”
Blinken warned that if Iran “continues to run increasingly sophisticated centrifuges” and intensifies uranium enrichment, it will approach the “burst” point at which it will be dangerously close to the capacity to develop. a nuclear bomb.
But Blinken said Biden still supported a return to the deal, under which Iran drastically cut back on nuclear work until Trump stepped down in 2018 and imposed crippling sanctions.
“We have a national interest in trying to put the nuclear issue back in the box it was in the JCPOA,” Blinken said.
Any failure by Tehran to extend a monitoring deal with the United Nations nuclear watchdog that expired this week would be a “serious concern” in talks to revive its nuclear deal with world powers, Blinken said.
Iran has been in talks with world powers since April to revive the 2015 deal under which it agreed to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. The Vienna talks are now in a hiatus, which is expected to last until next week.
After the United States under Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, Iran responded by violating some of its restrictions. Tehran and Washington have yet to agree on which party to take what action and when to relaunch the deal.
One of the steps Iran took to reduce compliance was the decision to end additional IAEA monitoring of its nuclear sites in February. Inspections were twice extended by temporary agreements, the last of which ended this week.
“This remains a serious concern,” Blinken told reporters at a press conference in Paris alongside his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian. “The concern has been communicated to Iran and must be resolved.”
The UN nuclear watchdog said on Friday it had received no response from Tehran regarding the possible extension of the surveillance deal, which expired on Thursday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement that its director Rafael Grossi wrote to Tehran about the matter on June 17 but that “Iran had not replied to its letter or indicated its he intended to maintain the current agreement “.
Grossi said “an immediate response from Iran is needed in this regard.”
France – which like the UK, Germany, Russia and China had remained in the 2015 deal despite pressure from Trump – also stepped up pressure on Iran to go out of business. before.
“We expect the Iranian authorities to take the final – arguably difficult – decisions that will allow negotiations to be concluded,” Le Drian said at the joint press conference with Blinken.
Talks have stalled in part because of Iran’s insistence on lifting all sanctions, underscoring promises of economic relief under the deal.
Biden administration says it is ready to lift economic measures related to nuclear work as defined by the JCPOA – but that it will retain other sanctions, including on human rights and Iran’s support for groups armed in the Arab world.
Some experts believe Iran was awaiting the election of Raisi, whose intransigent approach is supported by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s ultimate arbiter of foreign policy.
Analysts said Iran could strike a deal before Raisi takes office in August – allowing him to take credit for the expected economic recovery but blame incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who defended a better relationship with the West, if the situation deteriorates.