Top EU diplomat warns prospect of reinstating Iran nuclear deal ‘shrinks’

The European Union’s foreign policy chief warned on Saturday of the dwindling prospect of reviving the 2015 deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

“The possibility of reaching a deal and returning to the JCPOA is diminishing. But we can still do it with extra effort,” Josep Borrell wrote on Twitter, referring to the nuclear deal by his initials.

“As coordinator, I stand ready at all times to facilitate a solution to the remaining outstanding issues.”

Negotiations to restore the pact have been deadlocked since stalling in March. A key sticking point is Tehran’s demand rejected by Washington – that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the ideological arm of Iran’s military, be removed from a US terrorism blacklist.

Borrell’s tweet came after he spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Friday, who warned Western nations against “political action” against Iran during the meeting. next week from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The United States, France, Britain and Germany want the IAEA Board of Governors to blame Iran for failing to explain longstanding questions about uranium traces at unidentified sites. declared.

“Any political action by the United States and the three European countries within the IAEA would undoubtedly provoke a proportional, effective and immediate response from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Amir-Abdollahian told Borrell, according to a statement from Iran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian gives a press conference after meeting his Iraqi counterpart at the headquarters of the Foreign Ministry in Tehran, the Iranian capital, on April 13, 2022. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Amir-Abdollahian also lambasted the UN’s atomic watchdog, saying a visit by the organization’s chief to Israel violated the organization’s “neutrality”.

IAEA Director Rafael Grossi traveled to Israel on Friday for talks with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett focused on Iran’s nuclear program.

A statement from Bennett’s office said the prime minister warned him that Iran was pursuing the development of a nuclear weapon while deceiving the world with “false information and lies” to cover up his work.

Bennett stressed the “urgent need” to confront Iran using “all means” to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, according to the prime minister’s office. He also called on the IAEA to send Tehran a “clear and unequivocal message” at the next meeting of the Board of Governors dealing with undeclared Iranian nuclear sites.

“Bennett has made it clear that while Israel prefers diplomacy to deny Iran the ability to develop nuclear weapons, it reserves the right to defend itself and take action against Iran to block its nuclear program if the international community fails to meet the relevant deadline,” the statement said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) meets with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi on June 3, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Grossi’s trip came as Israel expressed growing concern over Iran’s atomic activities and any potential rollback to the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

Israel was a staunch opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal and hailed the Trump administration‘s unilateral withdrawal from the deal, which caused it to crumble. However, a number of current and former security officials have begun to say the withdrawal was a mistake because it led Iran to accelerate its nuclear enrichment efforts.

The Biden administration tried to renew the deal, which lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits and oversight of its nuclear program.

Iran has always declared its nuclear activities to be for purely peaceful purposes, but stepped up uranium enrichment after the collapse of the nuclear deal to near weapons-grade levels.

US intelligence agencies, Western countries and the IAEA have said Iran had an organized nuclear weapons program until 2003. Neither the US nor Israel have ruled out the use of force military to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

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