Iran has said that it is not willing to hold informal talks with the US about how best to return to the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said it was not ‘appropriate’ to hold talks at the present, citing there being ‘still no change in the US position and behaviour’ as the reason behind his country’s decision.
The Iran nuclear deal, officially the Joint Comprehensive Plano of Action (JCPOA) was signed in 2015 by the US, Iran, Russia, China, France, and Germany. It placed limits on Iran’s nuclear capabilities in return for sanctions relief, though Former President Donald Trump took the US out of the deal in 2018 and instead opted for a ‘maximum pressure’ strategy.
Trump ramped up sanctions and put extreme pressure on Iran’s economy, making it more difficult for Iran to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. This was in an attempt to make Iran renegotiate the 2015 deal, though Iran refused, and instead rolled back a number of key commitments.
The new turn of events will come as a blow to the Biden administration, which intended to re-join the Iran nuclear deal. However, tensions between the US and Iran increased last week after President Joe Biden authorised air strikes against two Shia militia groups in Syria, which have ties to Iran. The Iranian government condemned the attacks, saying that they could further de-stabilise the region.
The US has said it wants to “re-engage in meaningful diplomacy”, though Tehran is certainly not exhibiting the same level of enthusiasm. Both sides want the other to take the first step in reinitiating the deal, and, despite some goodwill gestures on the part of the Biden administration, it is not willing to offer any significant incentives in advance.
The recent attempt at organising informal talks on the deal was conducted by the EU, and US officials have blamed its failure on tension between Iran and the US caused by the Trump administration. However, Iran has accused the Biden administration on continuing with Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ strategy, and has told the US that it must lift its ‘illegal’ sanctions.
Khatibzadeh said that ‘Considering the recent actions and statements by the United States and three European powers, Iran does not consider this the time to hold an informal meeting with these countries, which was proposed by the EU foreign policy chief.’
Iran has said that it will continue ‘consultations’ with both the EU and other signatories of the deal. Washington has reportedly spoken to Moscow and Beijing to try and establish a mutual position. Last Tuesday, Iran began to restrict inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in an attempt to put pressure on the US.