Middle East/North Africa

Iran says it will return to nuclear negotiations

Iran said Wednesday that by the end of next month it will return to negotiations to restart the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran's deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri, made the announcement on Twitter following a meeting with Enrique Mora, the European Union official serving as the chief coordinator on the talks. 

Bagheri said he "had a very serious & constructive dialogue with @enriquemora_ on the essential elements for successful negotiations. We agree to start negotiations before the end of November. Exact date would be announced in the course of the next week."

Talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the Obama-era nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), had been ongoing since April but were halted in June following the election of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who is a hard-line critic of the West.

Under the terms of the deal - which was agreed to by Iran, the U.S., France, China, Russia and Germany - Iran agreed to dismantle much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to inspections in exchange for sanctions relief.

Former President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA in 2018, saying it would not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Iran then stopped complying with the terms of the agreement in 2019 and said it would not return to the table until sanctions put in place under the Trump administration were lifted. 

The U.S., meanwhile, has insisted that Tehran return to compliance with the JCPOA's terms before it gets sanctions relief.

Asked for a reaction to Bagheri's announcement during a Wednesday briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. remains committed to pursuing a "diplomatic path forward."

"I will leave it to the negotiators to determine when the next round of discussions will be. Our framing continues to be for compliance, and we'll leave it up to the Europeans and our negotiators to determine when the next step will be," Psaki said.

The announcement comes as the United Nations's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), warns of ongoing troubles monitoring Iran's current nuclear program.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi last week warned that its program was "no longer intact" after Iran denied access to cameras in a facility used to make centrifuge parts.

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