World powers, Iran to discuss US return to nuclear deal
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Brussels (AFP) –
World powers and Iran will meet by videoconference Friday to discuss the possible return of the United States to the Iran nuclear deal, in a development welcomed by Washington.
Representatives of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and Iran -- the countries still party to the agreement after the US left -- will attend Friday's meeting, according to an EU statement.
"Participants will discuss the prospect of a possible return of the United States to the JCPOA, and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement by all sides," the statement said, referring to the deal by its initials.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that "we obviously welcome this as a positive step".
"We are ready to pursue a return to compliance with our JCPOA commitments consistent with Iran also doing the same," Price said Thursday.
The US is speaking to partners "about the best way to achieve this, including through a series of initial mutual steps," he said.
"We've been looking at options for doing so, including with indirect conversations through our European partners," Price added.
Friday will mark the first meeting of the so-called "joint commission" on the Iran nuclear accord since US President Joe Biden took office.
The body that oversees the implementation of the JCPOA has been under threat since then-US president Donald Trump pulled out in 2018 and Iran began to resume nuclear activities it had scaled back.
The online meeting will be chaired by senior European Union diplomat Enrique Mora on behalf of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
Trump denounced the 2015 accord, which saw Iran granted relief from international sanctions in exchange for accepting limits on its nuclear programme, which Western powers feared would lead to it acquiring an atomic weapon.
But Biden has promised to rejoin the agreement on condition Tehran first returns to respecting the commitments abandoned in retaliation for Trump's decision.
- Iraq sanctions waiver -
The State Department also confirmed Thursday that the US had granted Iraq an extension to a sanctions waiver allowing it to import Iranian gas.
The US blacklisted Iran's energy industry in late 2018 as it ramped up sanctions, but granted Baghdad a series of temporary waivers, hoping Iraq would wean itself off Iranian energy by partnering with US firms.
The 120-day extension comes ahead of the start of a "strategic dialogue" between Washington and Baghdad, slated to open via videoconference on April 7.
"This renewal acknowledges the recent success the United States and Iraq have experienced through two rounds of our strategic dialogue with Baghdad, and several energy agreements signed by the Iraqi government as well," Price said.
He stated that the agreements "will ultimately allow Iraq to develop its energy self-sufficiency and, we hope, to end its reliance on Iran."
Earlier this month, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country may return to full compliance of the JCPOA if Tehran deems Washington has honoured its commitments.
The accord was signed by Iran in Vienna in 2015 with the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and United Kingdom, under an EU chair.
It was designed to prevent the Islamic republic from acquiring a nuclear arsenal by imposing strict limits on its nuclear programme and force it to remain exclusively civilian and peaceful.
© 2021 AFP