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In video conference with EU Foreign Ministers will Antony Blinken confirm acceptance of direct talks with Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement ?

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The U.S. State Secretary will now have the opportunity to explain the Biden’s administration response to the EU proposal for renewed negotiations on the nuclear deal, during an informal video conversation with the 27 EU Foreign Ministers on Monday.

Will the new U.S. administration confirm its acceptation of a proposal from the European Union to join a meeting of the so-called P5+1 to discuss implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran ?

To this question, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is likely to respond on Monday during an informal exchange he will have for the first time with the 27 EU Foreign Ministers via video conference.

The agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)  signed in Vienna in 2015, was based on Iran providing safeguards that it would not make an atomic bomb, in exchange for a gradual easing of international sanctions. But since then Iran has stepped up its nuclear work in violation of the accord.

Last Thursday, after a meeting in Paris of the Foreign Ministers of the U.S., U.K., France and Germany – respectively Antony Blinken, Dominic Raab, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Heiko Maas- the Biden administration said it would accept an EU invitation for negotiations on the nuclear agreement.

“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,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

Former U.S. President Donal Trump pulled out of 2015 agreement and imposed  sanctions on Iran.

Now the Biden administration said it would withdraw a demand last fall that the U.N. Security Council enforce “snapback sanctions” against Tehran, which the Trump administration had pushed for violating the deal. Additionally, Biden said it will lift travel restrictions on Iranians who seek to enter the United States to attend U.N. meetings.

It was not clear if Iran would be willing to attend a meeting proposed by the EU. Tehran has said that U.S. should first lift all sanctions as a condition for returning to the deal. The U.S. has called on Iran to return to compliance with its commitments under the nuclear agreement.

The proposed EU talks have been announced at a time of growing tension, as Iran has increased its use of advanced centrifuges and begun producing  quantities of uranium metal, essential for building nuclear warheads. Tehran has also threatened to expel inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visiting the nuclear facilities this week.

Following their virtual meeting with Antony Blinken, the U.S.,  U.K., France and Germany issued a joint statement warning Iran not to embark on any further violations of the JCPOA, “particularly at this time of renewed diplomatic opportunity.”

The statement read: “The E3 (France, Germany and the U.K.) and the United States affirmed their shared objective of Iran’s return to full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA. Secretary Blinken reiterated that, as President Joe Biden has said, if Iran comes back into strict compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, the United States will do the same and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end.’’

The joint statement expressed “shared concerns over Iran’s recent actions to produce both uranium enriched up to 20 percent and uranium metal” saying such activities had “no credible civilian justification” and that the latter activity was a “key step in the development of a nuclear weapon.”

But the three European Foreign Ministers “welcomed the prospect of a U.S. and Iranian return to compliance with the JCPOA.’’

In the wake of this meeting, Enrique Mora, the EU political director and lead negotiator, tweeted an invitation to talks. “The JCPOA at a critical moment. Intense talks with all participants and the US. I am ready to invite them to an informal meeting to discuss the way forward,” he wrote in his tweet.

U.S. State Secretary Blinken will now have the opportunity to explain the Biden’s administration response to the EU proposal for renewed negotiations, during his informal video conversation on Monday.

EU foreign affairs Josep Borrell is playing the role of coordinator of the JCPOA Joint Commission,  which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the agreement.

”The conversation with Secretary of State Blinken will last two hours during which the EU foreign ministers will have the first opportunity to engage with the U.S. on various topics of common interest,’’ an EU senior official said.

‘’We are still in contact with the different parties to see whether it is possible to have such a meeting of the parties and get the JCPOA back on track,’’ the official said on Friday.

The U.S. announcement that it was ready to talk directly with Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement was met with concern in Israel, amid accelerating Iranian breaches of the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities.

“Israel remains committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons and its position on the nuclear agreement has not changed,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Friday. “Israel believes that going back to the old agreement will pave Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal. Israel is in close contact with the United States on this matter.”

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