US, allies step up pressure on Iran to return to nuke talks

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The United States and its closest allies are increasing pressure on Iran to return to stalled nuclear talks, warning that it could face greater international isolation, new economic penalties and possibly military action if it goes ahead with its nuclear program. will have to face.

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In a series of high-level diplomatic meetings this week in Washington, US. European, Israeli and Arab officials agreed on the need to make clear to Iran that its continued resistance to re-engaging in talks in Vienna would not be ignored or spared.

The consensus comes amid growing concerns that Tehran is not serious about returning to talks aimed at bringing both Iran and the United States back into compliance with the historic 2015 nuclear deal former President Donald Trump withdrew three years later. .

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It also comes as the Biden administration, which re-prioritized the agreement in its first months in office, and others become increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of such talks, even if they do resume. .

Iran was at the top of the agenda in all meetings that brought together top diplomats from the EU Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to officials attending, including EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell Israeli Foreign Minister Antony Blinken. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed.

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US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Mali is continuing Iran’s talks with Gulf Arab states later this week, while Rafael Grossi, the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, will be in Washington next week for further discussions.

Iran has indicated it is ready to return to indirect talks with the US, but has yet to commit to a date. The European Union, which has been accused of holding the talks, has told Iran may not be ready to do so too soon and wants to meet Borrell and others in Brussels before returning to Vienna.

As the new Iranian government, led by radical President Ibrahim Raisi, has been delaying, it has continued to impose sanctions on nuclear activities that were hindered by the agreement, which included enriching uranium to high levels. This has worried US officials, who fear a return to the 2015 deal could be in vain if such activity continues.

Borrell, whose top aide has returned from a trip to Tehran to assess the situation in the government, said he was ready to meet with the Iranians before resuming the Vienna talks. But he said Raisi and his team, who took over in August, have had enough time to prepare.

“If they want to come to Brussels I am ready to do so. But time is running out,” Borrell told reporters on Friday. “I understand that the new government needs to study the file, instruct the negotiating team. Time is needed, but this time has already passed. It’s time to go back to the talks.”

When asked about the potential for failure in the conversation and what might happen after it – often referred to as “Plan B” – Borrell replied: “I don’t want to think about ‘Plan B. B’ which I can imagine would be good.”

“We are in a very dangerous place,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal told reporters in a separate press conference on Friday, noting Iran’s rapid nuclear work. “I think we need to focus on resuming talks (and) the suspension of these activities by Iran.”

After meeting with Lapid on Wednesday, Blinken made a vague assessment of the situation. In a rare acknowledgment by the US that it is looking at what to do if diplomacy with Iran fails, he said the window for Iran to return to talks was closing, but declined to give a date. But it will be too late.

“Time is running out,” he said. “If Iran does not change its course, we are ready to look to other options, and these consultations with our allies and partners are part of that,” he said. We will consider every option to deal with the challenge posed by Iran.

Lapid was more blunt, reiterating Israel’s warnings that it would act with military force if necessary to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

“There are moments when nations must use force to save the world from evil,” Lapid said. “We must act if a terrorist regime is going to acquire nuclear weapons. We have to make it clear that the civilized world will not allow this. If the Iranians don’t believe the world is serious about stopping them, they run for the bomb.

A senior Israeli official who participated in the talks told reporters that Lapid’s visit to Washington, which also included meetings with Vice President Kamala Harris and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, “was a very intimate discussion about what needs to be done.” thi” if Iran refuses to join or is seriously involved.

The official said Israel is pleased that the Biden administration is toughening its position and added that Israel believes it is “important to give (Iran) a sense of encirclement.”

Ahead of his visit to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, US envoy Mali said the preferred method of Biden administration is diplomatic. He stressed that other options are being discussed.

“We will be ready to adjust to a different reality in which we have to deal with all options to address Iran’s nuclear program if it is not ready to back down,” he said. “There is every possibility that Iran will choose a different path, and we need to coordinate with Israel and others …

Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Josep Borrell

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