Iran on the agenda as Biden huddles with world leaders in Rome

US President Joe Biden was expected to discuss coordinating efforts to slow Iran’s advance toward a nuclear bomb during meetings with world leaders in Rome over the weekend.

Biden met with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday and was scheduled to sit down with the leaders of Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom on Saturday at the G-20 summit of industrialized nations.

The Biden-Macron meeting focused largely on issues related to the bilateral relationship between the United States, according to The Associated Press, although the Iran issue did arise.

While the meeting was taking place, the US Treasury Department announced new sanctions against two senior members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and two affiliated companies for supplying lethal drones and related material to insurgent groups in the region.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Thursday that the Biden meetings would serve as an opportunity ״ to touch the ground on where things are “in the Biden administration’s efforts to negotiate a return. The United States and Iran jointly to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, which shifted relief from international sanctions to restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program.

“It is also an opportunity to set the level of our understanding of Iran’s progress on the nuclear program since they left the JCPOA,” Sullivan said. “And obviously we all have deep concerns about the progress of that program since the lid was lifted and they began operating outside the constraints of the JCPOA.”

The national security adviser went on to tell reporters that Biden would be working to promote a “shared strategy and solidarity and unity in our approach” on Iran.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington on August 23, 2021 (Susan Walsh / AP).

When asked if the United States believes Iran is ready to return to talks in Vienna about a return to the JCPOA, Sullivan was unable to provide a definitive answer.

“It is not entirely clear to me yet whether the Iranians are ready to return to the talks. We have heard positive signs that they do, but I think we have to wait and see when and if they actually appear on the negotiating table. “

“We are prepared to negotiate in good faith to return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA. We hope they are too, ”Sullivan said.

Washington has responded skeptically after Iran’s chief negotiator announced Wednesday that Tehran was ready to return to nuclear negotiations in Vienna late next month.

Ali Bagheri, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and chief negotiator for the talks, said in a Twitter post that Iran agreed to restart negotiations at the end of November and that a date for the resumption of the talks “would be announced over the course of the next week. “

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said later that day that administration officials were aware of Bagheri’s comments but were waiting for European officials to confirm that Iran is indeed ready to resume talks.

“I would let the negotiators determine when the next round of discussions will be,” Psaki said.

Television cameras in front of the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna’ where nuclear talks are taking place behind closed doors in Vienna, Austria, on June 20, 2021 (Florian Schroetter / AP).

Former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal, and the United States indirectly participated in the Vienna talks, the goal of which was to get both Washington and Tehran to comply again. The talks have been on hiatus since June, when Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi took power.

Bagheri’s signal that Iran was ready to resume talks comes after US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley said this week that there is “deep and growing” concern in the Biden administration over the refusal of They will commit to a date to resume negotiations in Vienna.

The UN atomic watchdog has said Iran is increasingly violating the JCPOA. Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union remain part of the agreement.

Bagheri also said on Twitter that he has engaged in “a very serious and constructive dialogue” with Enrique Mora, the European Union’s undersecretary general for political affairs, “on the essential elements for the success of the negotiations.”

AP contributed to this report.

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