Blinken tells EU counterparts U.S. is ready to open talks with Iran

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his counterparts from the E3 — France, Germany and the U.K. — in a video conference on Thursday that the U.S. is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran in an attempt to reach an agreement on returning to full compliance of the 2015 nuclear deal, according to a joint readout of the call.

Why it matters: The U.S. and Iran still haven't engaged in direct talks since President Biden assumed office. Both sides are exchanging public messages demanding the other take the first step to move forward with the nuclear deal.

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  • This was the second video conference call between Blinken and his counterparts in recent weeks. The goal of the consultations is to coordinate positions on Iran and discuss ways to reengage on the nuclear deal.

What they're saying: According to the joint statement, the U.S. and the E3 stressed that Iran must return to full compliance with its commitments under the nuclear deal. Blinken reiterated that if Iran resumes strict compliance with its commitments, the U.S. will do the same.

  • Blinken and his counterparts called on Iran not to move forward with its plan to stop implementing the “additional protocol” of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty starting Feb. 23, that would see Iran curtail its cooperation with UN inspectors, suspending their ability to conduct unannounced visits to nuclear sites.

  • "The E3 and the United States are united in underlining the dangerous nature of a decision to limit IAEA access, and urge Iran to consider the consequences of such grave action, particularly at this time of renewed diplomatic opportunity," the statement read.

  • In their statement, Blinken and his counterparts also expressed concern over Iran's production of both 20% enriched uranium and uranium metal — both violations of the nuclear deal and steps toward the development of nuclear weapons.

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pushed back on the joint statement by the U.S. and the E3, saying, "Instead of putting onus on Iran, they must abide by own commitments and demand an end to Trump's legacy of economic terrorism against Iran."

What’s next: During the call, Blinken and the European leadership agreed to hold future consultations on Iran with the foreign ministers of Russia and China.

  • They recognize the role of the High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell as coordinator of the nuclear deal joint commission.

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