The United States said on Thursday it was ready to restart diplomacy with Tehran around a nuclear deal sealed between Iran and world powers, but which the Trump administration had abandoned in 2018.
“The United States would accept an invitation from the European Union High Representative to attend a meeting of the P5+1 and Iran to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said, referring to the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany.
Speaking to reporters on background, two senior State Department officials described two steps that Washington had taken to remove what they said were “obstacles to multilateral diplomacy.” The officials said the U.S. had reversed travel restrictions that the Trump administration had put in place on Iranian diplomats at the United Nations. The Biden administration also told the United Nations earlier on Thursday it was rescinding a Trump administration claim that U.N. sanctions against Iran “snapped back” and should be enforced.
Even if the meeting does happen, one of the officials noted, it would not necessarily be a “breakthrough,” but it was the first step toward a return to diplomacy.
Earlier on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with major European allies – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – and reaffirmed President Biden’s position that should Iran come back into compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would do the same “and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end.” Iran insists that the U.S. should return to the deal first before it makes any moves.
The Biden administration moves represent the first significant, if small, steps toward restoring diplomacy on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal sealed during the Obama administration, in which Iran’s nuclear program was restricted in exchange for sanctions relief.
The diplomatic offer also comes days ahead of a deadline Iran has set in which it has demanded the Biden administration start reversing sanctions imposed under the Trump administration, or else it would ban snap inspections by the IAEA, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog.
Former President Trump had withdrawn from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran. A year later, Iran began breaching commitments made in the deal.