United States signals it is ready to resume nuclear talks with Iran

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday held a telephone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in which she voiced her "concern" over Tehran's non-compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear pact, her spokesman said.

Britain, France and Germany, known as the E3, and the United States called on Iran not to take any additional steps "with respect to the suspension of the Additional Protocol and to any limitations on IAEA verification activities in Iran".

"The recent steps of Iran are not helpful at all, they endanger the return of the Americans" to the deal, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tells reporters in Paris.

The next step in the escalation appears to be Iran's withdrawal from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty's Additional Protocols, which Iran signed in 2003 and give the International Atomic Energy Agency broad access to Iran's nuclear facilities.

Their statement urged "Iran to consider the consequences of such grave action, particularly at this time of renewed diplomatic opportunity", adding that they all shared the aim of Iran returning to "full compliance" with the accord.

A Western diplomat told Asharq Al-Awsat that the U.S. administration was racing against time with the approaching February 21 deadline set by Iranian legislation, which allows Tehran to stop its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). "They are playing with fire", he says.

Meanwhile, at the United Nations, the administration notified the Security Council that it had withdrawn Trump's September 2020 invocation of the so-called "snapback" mechanism under which it maintained that all U.N sanctions against Iran had been re-imposed.

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The 2015 accord is aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. "When that didn't happen, in 2019, that's when Iran started step-by-step scaling back some of its commitments", he added. The head of the IAEA is scheduled to travel to Iran this weekend to find a solution that allows the agency to continue inspections.

But the hugely sensitive diplomatic process risks being derailed by an Iranian threat to restrict some United Nations nuclear agency inspections by February 21 if the U.S. does not lift the sanctions.

Talking about Iran's resilience in the face of the "maximum pressure" policy of the Trump administration, Rouhani said, "The enemy brought all of its pressure and suspended our sale of oil". Last month, Tehran announced that it had begun enriching uranium to a purity level of 20%, which is five times the limit set by the JCPoA.

After a meeting of the foreign ministers of the U.S., U.K., France and Germany in Paris, the Biden administration said Thursday it would accept an European Union invitation for negotiations on rejoining the Iran nuclear agreement. That has "no credible" civilian use, the diplomats said.

The former United States president withdrew the U.S. from the JCPoA in May 2018.

"There is a short window of time to limit the damage that could ensue from Iran's next steps, for example by reducing the impact of such moves on the quality of inspections by global monitors", Geranmayeh said.

The officials said the US had reversed travel restrictions that the Trump administration had put in place on Iranian diplomats at the United Nations.

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