US, EU leaders say they are ‘convinced’ Iran deal can be quickly restored

In a joint statement following a discussion between Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 in Rome, the leaders said they were “convinced that it is possible to quickly reach and implement an agreement on the return to full compliance “of the Iran nuclear deal.

The meeting came a day after the United States imposed new sanctions on Iran linked to its drone program and less than a week after Tehran announced it would return to nuclear talks in Vienna after a four-month break.

The Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Common Comprehensive Plan of Action, was abandoned by the United States during the Trump administration. And talks to resuscitate the agreement in Vienna were suspended at the end of June after six rounds between Iran, China, Germany, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and – indirectly – the United States. .

According to the joint statement, the leaders “agreed that continued Iranian nuclear advances and obstacles to the work of the IAEA will jeopardize the possibility of a return to the JCPOA.” However, the statement added: “We are convinced that it is possible to quickly reach and implement an agreement on the return to full compliance and to ensure in the long term that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively at peaceful purposes ”.

The leaders said Iran’s return to compliance “would bring a lifting of sanctions with lasting implications for Iran’s economic growth.”

“This will only be possible if Iran changes course,” the leaders wrote, addressing Iran’s new hard-line leader: “We call on President (Ebrahim) Raisi to seize this opportunity and resuming a good faith effort to conclude our negotiations This is the only sure way to avoid a dangerous escalation, which is not in the interest of any country. “

US officials have previously indicated that they want the United States to return to the negotiating table in late November. But negotiators selected by Iran’s tough new leadership openly oppose the nuclear deal, leaving Washington with little optimism.

Just before the meeting, when a reporter asked if Biden wanted the stalled negotiations with Iran to resume, the president said, “They should resume.”

A senior administration official then clarified Biden’s comments, saying “there was no date” for talks to resume.

“He was referring to the Iranians and the EU a few days ago having indicated that the talks would start before the end of November, and we would like them to start as soon as possible,” the administration official said. . pool of journalists at a briefing in Rome.

White House officials had previously suggested that there was no specific goal for the meeting. Instead, they said the meeting was an attempt to sort out next steps and make sure all parties are on the same page.

“(L) the main purpose of their four-way meeting – it was actually Merkel’s initiative – is that we are at a critical juncture, and these four leaders have not had a chance to sit down and talk about Iran, “a senior administration official told reporters on Friday. “And they need a private space to have, you know, the non-BS conversation about where we’re at and where we need to go.”

The manager called the meeting “a serious opportunity to check the signals as we enter a really vital time on this issue.”

US officials are very skeptical that further discussions on how to handle Iran’s nuclear program will yield the desired results and are actively discussing the imposition of sanctions on Tehran.

Sources in Washington told CNN that there was an ongoing debate within the Biden administration about how to proceed and to what extent to increase the pressure on Iran.

A person familiar with the talks told CNN that Biden is expected to discuss potential options during his G20 meetings with his allies and that those costs could be imposed even as talks with Iran are underway.

However, they said the United States and its allies were now more willing to impose a higher cost on Iran for not reaching a deal if Tehran continued to take action inconsistent with the 2015 nuclear deal and brought it closer to the development of a nuclear weapon. .

A European diplomat said Tehran’s willingness to resume talks is “not a solution, but it is a reasonably important step forward.” This diplomat and others had seen Iran’s delay in resuming talks in Vienna as a blocking tactic as the country continued to expand its nuclear program. Now there is a broad discussion about “increasing the pressure” on Iran, the diplomat said.

CNN’s Kylie Atwood, Nicole Gaouette, Jennifer Hansler and Donald Judd contributed to this reporting.

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