Iran Intends to Resume Nuclear Talks in the Near Future
Iran said Monday it planned to resume nuclear talks in the near future, the clearest indication yet that negotiations on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal could soon resume, and the Biden administration confirmed it would drop a resolution censuring Iran for failing to cooperate with nuclear inspectors.
The comments came after Iran agreed over the weekend to allow International Atomic Energy Agency staff access and reset cameras and other equipment that monitor Iranian activities at various nuclear-related sites in Iran.
Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, had warned that if the U.S. and European powers sought to rebuke Iran at the meeting of IAEA member states, it could derail Tehran’s plan to resume the nuclear talks.
The State Department said Monday that if Iran implements its weekend agreement with the IAEA, the U.S. will drop discussions of a resolution rebuking Tehran at the IAEA board meeting, which started Monday.
“Iran has an opportunity to engage with the IAEA on the serious, pressing issues raised in IAEA reports. Of course, their cooperation must be seen in actions and not just words,” said a State Department spokeswoman. “Based on the director general’s report on Sunday, we do not now plan to table a resolution at this week’s meeting” of the IAEA board, she said.
The nuclear talks, which started in April, aim to agree on the steps Iran and the U.S. would take to revive the 2015 nuclear accord, from which the Trump administration withdrew the U.S. in 2018. Since then, Iran has breached most of the limits in the deal in response to Washington’s imposition of sweeping economic sanctions on Iran.
The Biden administration has made the revival of the 2015 agreement a top foreign policy goal despite the charges of critics in Congress, Israel and elsewhere that the deal would tightly restrict Iran’s nuclear activities only for the next few years.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted by state television saying, “The government has announced that it will certainly resume the talks in the near future.”
Some Western diplomats have said they are hopeful talks could resume later this month.
Mr. Raisi and his new government have repeatedly refused to fix a date for returning to the negotiations in Vienna despite public and private pressure from Europe, the U.S. and Russia, diplomats have said. Two weeks ago, Iran’s new foreign minister suggested it could be another two to three months before Tehran returned to talks.
That has sparked concerns that Iran is playing for time in the talks, seeking to increase the pressure on the U.S. to offer concessions by moving forward on its nuclear program. Iran is now producing near-weapons-grade enriched uranium. It is also working on uranium metal, a material that can be used in the core of a nuclear weapon, and it is advancing its expertise in making centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said he had been invited to travel to Tehran soon for talks with senior Iranian officials. That will include discussions about a probe into unreported nuclear material found in Iran that Tehran has stymied for more than two years.
“These things are not going away. We cannot wish them away,” Mr. Grossi said. “We need to address them together—Iran and the agency.”