In Tehran, the EU nuclear envoy meets with Iran’s deputy foreign minister.
On Thursday, Enrique Mora, the EU envoy in charge of coordinating discussions on resurrecting the Iran nuclear deal, met with Iranian deputy foreign minister Ali Bagheri in Tehran, according to the Iranian ministry.
The meetings take place a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of “alternative options” if diplomacy failed, while his Israeli colleague, who is visiting the US, retained the right to use force.
Since 2018, when then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew out of the 2015 nuclear deal, which relieved Iran of sanctions in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activity, it has been on life support.
Trump reimposed severe sanctions, while Iran, which maintains that its nuclear program is solely for civilian purposes, backed away from its own commitments.
Mora’s visit to Tehran comes amid growing pressure from EU countries and the US for a quick resumption of discussions on Washington’s return to the nuclear deal.
Mora’s visit is “a follow-up to meetings between the two sides on topics of shared interest, including Iran-EU relations, Afghanistan, and the nuclear agreement,” according to Iran’s foreign ministry.
Bagheri, Iran’s nuclear envoy, tweeted that the meeting would involve discussions on the “lifting of cruel sanctions.”
President-elect Joe Biden has expressed willingness to return to the nuclear accord since taking office in January.
Iran and the remaining parties to the accord — the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, and Russia — met in Vienna earlier this year, with the United States participating indirectly.
The talks have been put on hold since Iran’s president was elected in June.
New President Ebrahim Raisi, an ultraconservative former judiciary chief, is regarded to be less willing to make concessions to the West for the sake of a compromise than his predecessor Hassan Rouhani.
Iran has stated several times that it is ready to begin talks “soon,” but no specific date has been set.
On Wednesday, Blinken told reporters that he hoped the talks with Iran would be successful, but that “the runway that we have left to achieve that is growing less and shorter.”
“We are prepared to turn to additional measures if Iran does not change course,” Blinken said without elaborating, referring to visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s warning to use force.
Tehran has been seeking assurances from Europe that Trump’s unilateral pullout will not be repeated.
Mora attended Raisi’s inauguration in August, drawing fire from Israel, which has been a vocal opponent of the nuclear deal with its arch-enemy. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.