Iran’s top nuclear diplomat to visit U.K., France, Germany


Iran called on the U.S. to change its approach to sanctions and abandon the Trump-era “maximum pressure” strategy against the Islamic Republic, as its top nuclear negotiator heads to Europe to discuss efforts to revive the 2015 atomic deal.

Ali Bagheri Kani, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and lead diplomat in nuclear talks with world powers, will visit London, Paris and Berlin later this week. He’ll discuss the indirect negotiations with the U.S., Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters Monday, without giving dates. 

The U.S. and Iran are planning to return to Vienna on Nov. 29 after months of stalling to resume talks mediated by China, Russia, France, Germany, the European Union and the U.K. 

Restoring the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, would see Washington ease its sanctions on Iran, which will in turn scale back enrichment activity the West suspects is aimed at bomb-making. Tehran denies its nuclear program seeks to produce weapons.    

Oil traders are keen to see whether the talks will lead to the return of Iranian crude exports to a tightly-supplied market, with economies rebounding after pandemic lockdowns and a fuel crisis in Europe. 

Diplomats face multiple, interlocking challenges when they meet later this month as the fate of the accord is heavily entwined with Iran’s broader relationship with the West - and with its neighbours in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. 

Parallel diplomatic efforts to improve those ties have been underway over the past few months, including a tentative dialog with Saudi Arabia to fix ties, and talks with the U.K. to release British-Iranians who’ve been detained by the Iranian authorities for years. Both are likely to be affected by the final outcome of the nuclear negotiations.  

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian spoke by phone with his U.K. counterpart, Liz Truss, about the Vienna negotiations. He also told her that the U.K. must pay back a longstanding debt of around £400 million ($541 million) to Iran “as soon as possible.” 

The debt, which stems from a 1970s order for scores of tanks that Tehran bought but didn’t receive after the Islamic Revolution halted trade ties, is often linked to the release of dual nationals jailed in Iran.

Earlier, Khatibzadeh called on President Joe Biden’s government to “prove their brotherhood first and lift extraterritorial sanctions” ahead of the Nov. 29 meeting.

“Nothing will change in Vienna” as long as the U.S. doesn’t change its approach to maintaining Trump’s legacy and upholding sanctions selectively, Khatibzadeh said, referring to former U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to impose harsh sanctions on Iran’s economy after exiting the nuclear deal.

In response to those actions, Iran started to significantly ramp-up its nuclear activities, well beyond the limitations of the original 2015 accord. International inspectors have expressed alarm at their lack of access to sensitive nuclear sites inside the country.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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