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Blinken Says He Discussed Iran Nuclear Deal Efforts With Lavrov, Cautions Time Is Running Out

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have discussed international efforts to revive a landmark nuclear agreement with Iran amid concerns that time is running out to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.

Blinken, who held talks with Lavrov in Geneva amid heightened tensions prompted by fears that Russia was preparing to invade Ukraine, told reporters that the diplomatic efforts to put the Iran deal back on track were an example of how Moscow and Washington can work together on security issues.

Blinken reiterated his warnings that there was only a brief window of opportunity to bring talks to save the deal to a successful conclusion, and urged Russia to use its influence and close relationship with Iran to relay the sense of urgency to the leadership in Tehran.

The 2015 accord, which lifted crippling Western economic sanctions in exchange for curbing Tehran's nuclear activities, started unraveling in 2018 after then-U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew and reimposed the sanctions.

That prompted Iran to begin to roll back its commitments, and restart some uranium enrichment activity, pushing the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to the verge of complete collapse.

Negotiations to restore the agreement began early last year in Vienna but were put on hold in June as the Islamic republic held its presidential election, which brought an ultraconservative government led by President Ebrahim Raisi to power.

Talks resumed in late November, and the latest round got under way on December 27.

Along with Iran and the United States, other parties to the deal include Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia.

'Decisive Moment'

Blinken on January 20 warned that Tehran's continuing nuclear advances would derail any return to the JCPOA if a fresh agreement was not reached in the coming weeks.

"The talks with Iran about a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA have reached a decisive moment," Blinken said.

"If a deal is not reached in the next few weeks, Iran's ongoing nuclear advances will make it impossible to return to the JCPOA. But right now, there's still a window, a brief one, to bring those talks to a successful conclusion and address the remaining concerns of all sides."

A senior European Union official on January 21 said negotiations were moving in the right direction and a final agreement may be within reach, but echoed Blinken's concerns about the need for speed in closing a deal.

"My assessment is that we are on the right track for a final agreement," the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, referring to "small" progress on a number of issues.

"My concern, more than in the substance, is about the timing, [where] I have a feeling that we are going too slow. It would be an incredible mistake if, because of timing, we would not get a good solution," the official said without elaborating.

"Still, I think that we will have an agreement...and I think that it will be rather sooner than later."

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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