The United States on Sunday said it was disappointed that Iran had ruled out an informal meeting to discuss ways to revive its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, but said it remained ready to reengage in meaningful diplomacy on the issue.
"While we are disappointed at Iran's response, we remain ready to reengage in meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with JCPOA commitments," a White House spokeswoman said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran nuclear deal.
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She said Washington would be consulting with its P5+1 partners, the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom – plus Germany on the best way forward.
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The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Iran rejected an offer by the European Union and the United States to hold direct nuclear talks in coming weeks, insisting that Washington must lift all its unilateral sanctions.
"Considering the recent actions and statements by the United States and three European powers, Iran does not consider this the time to hold an informal meeting with these countries, which was proposed by the EU foreign policy chief," Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh later said, according to Iranian media.
The 2015 nuclear deal almost collapsed after the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the U.S. out three years ago, triggering crippling economic sanctions on Iran.
Britain, France and Germany notably struggled to keep it alive and have been heartened by President Joe Biden’s willingness to bring the U.S. back in.
On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Iran to agree to Western diplomatic overtures to preserve the 2015 nuclear accord.
Maas suggested that Tehran was undermining the transparency required under the agreement after it began restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities Tuesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday reiterated his government's skepticism of Iran's compliancy with the agreement, saying “We have already seen the quality of agreements with extremist regimes such as yours, in the past century and in this one, with the government of North Korea,” he said. “With or without agreements – we will do everything so that you will not arm yourselves with nuclear weapons.”
Iran this week effectively set a deadline to lift the U.S. sanctions within three months, after which it said it would erase surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities. It has also limited some monitoring of its activities, which the EU says are meant to help ensure that Tehran’s nuclear work is peaceful.
The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has also reported that Iran has added 17.6 kilograms (38.8 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 20 percent to its stockpile as of February 16 – far past the 3.67-percent purity allowed under the 2015 agreement.
Reuters contributed to this report.