Iran hints at possible nuclear talks at UN

Washington recently accused Tehran of taking a “step backward” after months of indirect discussions

Iran has said it would consider a meeting to discuss reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers on the sidelines of a United Nations summit in New York, after multiple US officials suggested agreement was still far off despite lengthy negotiations through European mediators.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani spoke of a potential meeting on Monday, saying that several days of events at the UN General Assembly in the Big Apple could provide an opportunity for Iranian officials to meet with other negotiators.

“Ali Bagheri Kani, the chief nuclear negotiator, will be present at the…General Assembly as part of the delegation, but there is no specific plan to discuss the nuclear deal,” Kanaani said, but added “However, I do not rule out the possibility of talks regarding the nuclear deal.”

Though the FM spokesman said any direct talks with US officials were out of the question, he suggested discussions with European intermediaries could take place on the sidelines of the UNGA, as foreign negotiators have ferried proposals between Washington and Tehran for several months.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with journalist prior to board a plane to travel to Brussels ahead of a meeting with NATO counterparts.
Blinken voices concerns over Iran nuclear deal

So far, those talks have failed to produce an agreement. Former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018, reimposing all prior sanctions and introducing additional penalties afterward. Iran has long pressed for sanctions relief, conditioning any return to the nuclear pact on the lifting of the economic penalties, though other issues – such as the blacklisting of Tehran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – have complicated the discussions. 

Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Iran was focused on “extraneous issues” and accused the country of taking “a step backward” in the negotiations, adding that any near-team agreement was “unlikely.” Similar pessimism has been reflected in recent comments from other officials as well, with State Department spokesman Ned Price saying in August that Iran was making “unacceptable demands.” 

Despite those charges, however, Kanaani insisted his country had never left the negotiating table and was still willing to find a path back to the deal.

In an interview with CBS broadcast on Sunday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi reiterated that Tehran is willing to return to the nuclear deal so long as Washington offered sufficient guarantees that it would not again pull out of the agreement, saying “If it’s a good deal and fair deal, we would be serious about reaching an agreement.”

The first day of high-level general debate at the UNGA summit kicked off on Tuesday, seeing world leaders address the globe-spanning body on a range of issues, including food security, the ongoing war in Ukraine, climate change and economic troubles.

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