RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AP) — The U.S. and Germany on Wednesday stepped up pressure on Iran to return soon to talks on its nuclear program, with Germany’s foreign minister saying that a delay of two or three months floated by Tehran is too long.
The remaining parties to the 2015 accord with world powers meant to contain Iran’s nuclear program held several rounds of talks in Vienna earlier this year on how to bring the U.S. back into the deal and how Iran can return to compliance with its terms.
But the last round ended in June and no date has been set for their resumption. Last week, new Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said “the other party understands that it takes two to three months for the new administration to establish and do planning for any sort of decision.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that that isn’t good enough. He said he told Amirabdollahian last week that “two or three months is a time frame that is much too long for us” and called for a quicker return.
The U.S. unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump. Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia have tried to preserve the accord, and President Joe Biden has said he is open to rejoining the pact.
Asked whether the delay suggested by Iran is too long for a return to the accord as it stands to be possible, Blinken said: “I’m not going to put a date on it, but we are getting closer to the point at which a strict return to the compliance with the (nuclear deal) does not reproduce the benefits that that agreement achieved.”
“We’ve been very clear that the ability to rejoin the (deal), return to mutual compliance, is not indefinite,” he added.
After the U.S. withdrawal, Iran embarked on a strategy of deliberately violating the deal. That is seen as an attempt to pressure Europe to give Iran incentives to offset the crippling American sanctions re-imposed after the U.S. pullout.
On Tuesday, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Iran has continued to increase its stockpile of highly enriched uranium in contravention of the accord. The International Atomic Energy Agency also told member states in its quarterly report that its verification and monitoring activities have been “seriously undermined” since February by Iran’s refusal to let inspectors access IAEA monitoring equipment.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned Wednesday that a “nonconstructive” attitude by the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog could damage the nuclear talks.
The Iranian government’s website quoted Raisi as saying that Iran has cooperated with the IAEA, indicating Tehran’s willingness to be transparent in its nuclear activities. “It is natural that in the case of a nonconstructive (attitude) in the agency, it is not logical to expect Iran to have a constructive reaction,” he said.