EU’s top diplomat urges Iran to return to nuclear talks

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The European Union’s top diplomat urged Iran to return to talks on its nuclear program while the country’s foreign minister reiterated Tehran’s “willingness to resume negotiations” during a meeting at the United Nations, the EU said Wednesday.

The remaining parties to the 2015 deal that meant to contain Iran’s nuclear program have 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, ahead of Iran’s elections that boosted the ranks of hard-liners. Iran’s new leaders have come under pressure to resume the talks.

Former President Donald Trump pulled America out of the deal in 2018 and imposed strict sanctions on Iran that have since clobbered its economy. Iran, in turn, has violated limits that the deal had imposed on its nuclear activities, leaving it in tatters.

There has been speculation that the remaining parties to the deal — Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and Iran — would meet on the sidelines of this week’s U.N. General Assembly. But it appears the meeting won’t take place.

Instead, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, met with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on Tuesday. The foreign minister is also expected to meet separately with the British and French foreign ministers.

Borrell stressed “the need for full cooperation” from Iran and reiterated his concern about the overall trajectory of the Iranian nuclear program,” the EU statement said. It said Borrell “underlined once again the great importance of a quick resumption of the Vienna talks” and added that the Iranian top diplomat assured him “of the willingness to resume negotiations at an early date.”

On Afghanistan, Amirabdollahian referred to the high number of Afghan refugees in Iran, and Borrell underlined EU’s willingness to “engage actively with regional partners to address the challenges of the present situation” — a reference to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last month.