The United States and European Union voiced frustration at the UN this week over the slow pace with Iran, saying its new government showed no indication it was ready to revive a nuclear accord.
“The window of opportunity is open and won’t be open forever,” a senior US official told reporters Thursday after days of consultations with allies at the UN General Assembly.
Iran’s new ultraconservative president, Ebrahim Raisi, strongly denounced the United States in a video address to the General Assembly Tuesday but indicated he backed a return to compliance with the 2015 accord as a way to lift sweeping sanctions imposed by former US president Donald Trump when he withdrew the United States.
But European nations said they heard nothing concrete as they met with Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who came to New York for the annual General Assembly.
Trump’s successor Joe Biden again said in his own address he wants to return to the accord, under which Iran drastically scaled back nuclear work. Since the United States left the deal in 2018, Iran retreated from many of its commitments.
But months of indirect talks brokered by the Europeans in Vienna made little progress and have been at a standstill since June, with Iran saying it needed time after the transition from a more moderate government of Hassan Rouhani.
The US official said that nothing transpired in New York to make the Biden administration more optimistic.
“For now, certainly there’s no indication, positive indication, that Iran is prepared to come back,” he said, adding that no date was communicated for a return to talks.
Iran protested Trump’s sanctions by taking steps away from compliance. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this month that Iran’s nuclear work will eventually make it pointless to revive the accord, although he stopped short of giving a timeframe.
– ‘Clock is ticking’ –
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas of Germany, one of five nations that negotiated with Iran and remains in the accord, warned that patience was thinning.
“The clock is ticking. We’re not going to wait two or three months for the Iranian delegation to come back to the table in Vienna,” Maas told reporters.
“It has to happen more quickly,” he said.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that Amir-Abdollahian told him that Iran was ready to restart talks “at an early date” but gave no more precise time.
Similarly, Iran’s foreign ministry said only that nuclear talks would resume “in the coming weeks.”
The delay has drawn particular suspicion in Israel, which sees Iran’s clerical leadership as an existential threat and has waged a sabotage campaign.
Barbara Slavin, an expert on Iran at the Atlantic Council, said that Tehran ultimately had an interest in returning to talks for the sake of the relief of sanctions which have taken a heavy economic toll.
“They’re taking their sweet time,” Slavin said.
“I still think they have to come back to the talks. I think they need it,” she added.