US, allies step up pressure on Iran to return to nuke talks




  • In World
  • 2021-10-15 19:52:06Z
  • By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States and its closest partners are stepping up pressure on Iran to return to stalled nuclear negotiations, warning that it will face greater international isolation, new economic penalties and possibly military action if it forges ahead with its atomic program.

In a series of high-level diplomatic meetings this week in Washington, U.S.. European, Israeli and Arab officials agreed on the need to make clear to Iran that its continued resistance to rejoining the talks in Vienna will not be ignored or left unpunished.

The consensus comes amid growing concerns that Tehran is not serious about returning to the negotiations aimed at bringing both Iran and the United States back into compliance with the languishing landmark 2015 nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump withdrew from three years later.

It also comes as the Biden administration, which had made rejoining the accord a priority in its first months in office, and others become increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for such negotiations even if they do resume.

Iran was at the top of the agenda in all the meetings that brought together top diplomats from the European Union, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to officials who participated, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed.

The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, is continuing the Iran conversation with Gulf Arab states this weekend, while the head of the United Nations' atomic watchdog, Rafael Grossi, will be in Washington next week for further discussions.

Iran has hinted it's ready to return to indirect negotiations with the U.S. but has not yet committed to a date. The EU, which has been charged with organizing the talks, has reported that Iran may not be willing to do so anytime soon and wants to meet with Borrell and others in Brussels before returning to Vienna.

As the new Iranian government led by hardline President Ebrahim Raisi delays, it has continued to blow through limits on it nuclear activities that had been constrained by the deal, including enriching uranium to higher levels. This has alarmed U.S. officials who fear that if such activity continues, a return to the 2015 deal may be pointless.

Borrell, whose top aide just returned from a visit to Tehran to gauge the position of the government, said he is willing to meet with Iranians ahead of a resumption in the Vienna talks. But he said enough time had already passed for Raisi and his team, which took office in August, to prepare.

"I'm ready to do that if they want to come to Brussels. But time is pressing," Borrell told reporters Friday. "I understand that the new government requires time to study the file, to instruct the negotiation team, but this time has already passed. It's time to go back to the negotiations."

Asked about the possibility of a failure in negotiations and what might follow - something often referred to as "Plan B" - Borrell replied: "I don't want to think about 'Plan Bs.' No 'Plan B' that I could imagine would be a good one."

"We're in a very dangerous place," Prince Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, told reporters at a separate news conference Friday, noting Iran's accelerating nuclear work. "I think we need to focus on a quick resumption of talks (and) suspension of these activities by Iran."

After meeting Lapid on Wednesday, Blinken offered a bleak assessment of the situation. In a rare acknowledgment by the U.S. that it is looking at what to do in the event diplomacy with Iran fails, he said the window for Iran to return to the talks is closing but declined to give a date at which it would be too late.

"Time is running short," he said. "We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn't change course, and these consultations with our allies and partners are part of it. We will look at every option to deal with the challenge posed by Iran."

Lapid was more blunt, raising anew Israel's warnings that it will act, with military force if necessary, to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

"There are moments when nations must use force to protect the world from evil," Lapid said. "If a terror regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon we must act. We must make clear that the civilized world won't allow it. If the Iranians don't believe the world is serious about stopping them, they will race to the bomb."

A senior Israeli official who participated in the talks told reporters that Lapid's visit to Washington, which also included meetings with Vice President Kamala Harris and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, "was a very intimate discussion about what should be done" if Iran refuses to engage or engage seriously.

The official said Israel was pleased that the Biden administration was hardening its position and said Israel believes it is "important to give (Iran) the feeling of encirclement."

Speaking ahead of his visit to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, Malley, the U.S. envoy, said the Biden administration's preferred approach remains a diplomatic one. He stressed that consultations are picking up on other options.

"We will be prepared to adjust to a different reality in which we have to deal with all options to address Iran's nuclear program if it's not prepared to come back," he said. "There is every possibility that Iran will choose a different path, and we need to coordinate with Israel and other partners in the region."

COMMENTS

More Related News

Report: Israel failed to probe shootings at Gaza protests
Report: Israel failed to probe shootings at Gaza protests
  • World
  • 2021-12-02 06:07:54Z

Rights groups said Thursday that Israel failed to investigate shootings that killed more than 200 Palestinians and wounded thousands at violent protests...

Asian stocks mixed with traders sensitive to Omicron headlines
Asian stocks mixed with traders sensitive to Omicron headlines

Asian markets were mixed Thursday and oil edged up with traders still trying to claw back their latest Omicron-induced losses but still full of uncertainty...

Iran enriching uranium with advanced centrifuges, watchdog says
Iran enriching uranium with advanced centrifuges, watchdog says
  • World
  • 2021-12-01 17:51:13Z

Iran is enriching uranium at one of its facilities despite ongoing high-stakes talks to restart a 2015 deal to limit the country's ability to stockpile...

Omicron unravels travel industry
Omicron unravels travel industry's plans for a comeback
  • US
  • 2021-12-01 11:51:30Z

Tourism businesses that were just finding their footing after nearly two years of devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic are being rattled again as...

Operation Blooming Onion: Federal indictment reveals
Operation Blooming Onion: Federal indictment reveals 'modern-day-slavery' in Georgia
  • US
  • 2021-12-01 11:02:40Z

24 people conspired to smuggle Mexican and Central American workers and forced them to work in brutal conditions on their farms, including in Georgia.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: World