US not ready to budge on Iran nuclear deal position: Official

State Department spokesman says US not ready for synchronised return, saying Iran must return to compliance first.

The Biden administration has made returning Iran to the 2015 nuclear deal a priority [File: Atta Kenare/AFP]

The United States has not changed its position on what it will take for it to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a Department of State spokesman said, reiterating that Tehran must make the first move before Washington will be ready to rejoin the pact.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested on Monday that a European Union official could “synchronise” or “coordinate” efforts by Iran and the US to return to full compliance with the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Asked about Zarif’s proposal for a synchronised return, US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday that the US is “prepared to walk the path of diplomacy – if Iran resumes that full compliance” with the agreement.

“When it comes to the propositions that have been put on the table, I would just go back to the proposition that we’ve put on the table,” said Price.

The 2015 deal saw Tehran curtail its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

Former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and imposed a campaign of “maximum pressure” sanctions against Tehran, which in turn has since loosened its adherence to the deal’s provisions on uranium enrichment and stockpiling.

European signatories, for their part, have sought to salvage the deal.

The Biden administration has made returning to the agreement a priority, saying it is fundamental to containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Last week, Biden named Robert Malley, who was instrumental in negotiating the JCPOA under former President Barack Obama, as his special envoy for Iran. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and nominee for deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, were also key negotiators in the Iran deal.

Still, upon taking office last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was still a long road ahead and any breakthroughs would have to come from Tehran.

In an interview released on Monday, Blinken said Iran could be just months away from developing enough “fissile material for a nuclear bomb” if it continues to lift restraints laid out in the deal.

The charged earned a rebuke from Zarif, who told CNN the statement is “more addressed to the public opinion than to reality” and said Tehran was not seeking to build a nuclear weapon.

In that same interview, Zarif said the US did not have “unlimited” time to rejoin the deal. “The United States needs to come back into compliance and Iran will be ready – immediately – to respond,” he said.

On Tuesday, Price said State Department officials “haven’t had had any discussions with the Iranians”.

The US will be “consulting with our allies, consulting with our partners, consulting with Congress before we’re reaching the point where we’re going to engage directly with the Iranians and willing to entertain any sort of proposal”, he said.

Source: Al Jazeera