Western leaders warn Iran on nuclear deal

ROME — Recent efforts by Tehran to advance its nuclear program and obstruct the work of monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) risk a complete collapse of the Iran nuclear deal, the leaders of the U.S., U.K., Germany and France warned on Saturday.

The agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was left largely in shreds after it was abandoned by then-U.S. President Donald Trump in May 2018. As the U.S. withdrew and reimposed sanctions, Iran reneged on its own commitments.

U.S. President Joe Biden has voiced a willingness to return to the agreement, but negotiations have stalled, especially after the election of Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, in June.

The statement by the four Western powers that are party to the JCPOA came after a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome between Biden, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

In their statement, the leaders cited recent efforts by Iran to accelerate its nuclear program and efforts to block the work of inspectors. “We agreed that continued Iranian nuclear advances and obstacles to the IAEA’s work will jeopardize the possibility of a return to the JCPOA,” they stated.

The leaders said they met “to discuss the risks posed to international security by Iran’s escalating nuclear program.”

“We expressed our determination to ensure that Iran can never develop or acquire a nuclear weapon and shared our grave and growing concern that, while Iran halted negotiations on a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action since June, it has accelerated the pace of provocative nuclear steps, such as the production of highly enriched uranium and enriched uranium metal.”

“Iran has no credible civilian need for either measure,” they added, “but both are important to nuclear weapons programs.”

Iran has repeatedly asserted that it was the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, and Washington’s refusal to live up to its commitments, that led to the unraveling of the deal. It has also insisted it does not intend to develop nuclear weapons.

In their statement, the four Western leaders emphasized Biden’s willingness to rejoin the agreement

“The current situation underscores the importance of a negotiated solution that provides for the return of Iran and the U.S. to full compliance with the JCPOA and provides the basis for continued diplomatic engagement to resolve remaining points of contention — both our concerns and Iran’s,” they said. “In this spirit, we welcome President Biden’s clearly demonstrated commitment to return the U.S. to full compliance with the JCPOA and to stay in full compliance, so long as Iran does the same.”

They also stressed potential benefits for Iran in restoring the agreement.

“Return to JCPOA compliance will provide sanctions lifting with long-lasting implications for Iran’s economic growth,” they said. “This will only be possible if Iran changes course. We call upon President Raisi to seize this opportunity and return to a good faith effort to conclude our negotiations as a matter of urgency. That is the only sure way to avoid a dangerous escalation, which is not in any country’s interest.”

Russia, China and the EU are also guarantors of the JCPOA and the four leaders said they were committed to working with Moscow, Beijing and Brussels to revive the nuclear deal.

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