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Iranian FM proposes coordinated return to nuclear deal with US

TEHRAN: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested a way to overcome the US-Iranian impasse over who goes first in returning to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, saying a top EU official could “synchronize” or “choreograph” the moves.

Zarif’s stance was a shift from his position, expressed in a Jan. 22 article in which he said the United States should remove sanctions before Iran returned to the deal. “There can be a mechanism to basically either synchronize it or coordinate what can be done,” Zarif told a US media outlet when asked how to bridge the gap.

Each government wants the other to resume compliance first with the agreement, which former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 but which President Joe Biden has said he will rejoin if Iran resumed “strict” compliance.

Under the accord, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program to make it harder for it to develop nuclear weapons in return for relief from US and other economic sanctions.

Zarif noted the pact created a Joint Commission coordinated by the European Union foreign policy chief, now Josep Borrell. Borrell “can … sort of choreograph the actions” needed from both sides. “There can be a mechanism to basically either synchronise it or coordinate what can be done,” he said.

The commission includes the EU and the seven parties to the deal: Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. After abandoning the deal, Trump reimposed sanctions and imposed new economic penalties on Iran.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Washington will return to the Iran nuclear deal provided Tehran gets back into compliance with its terms.

Blinken has also said the Biden administration plans to negotiate a “longer and stronger” accord. Zarif warned that the US does not have “unlimited” time to return to the deal.

“The United States needs to come back into compliance and Iran will be ready – immediately – to respond,” Zarif said. “The timing is not the issue. The issue is whether the United States, whether the new administration, wants to follow the old failed policies of the Trump administration or not.”

Analysts said Zarif’s stance might lay the ground for talks on reviving the deal despite Iran’s prior insistence that the United States lift sanctions first.