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EU Envoy Sees Progress In Iran Nuclear Talks, Swiss Say U.S. Seeking 'New Path'


U.S. President Joe Biden, Swiss Federal President Guy Parmelin, and delegation members gather after Biden's arrival at the airport in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 15.

The top European diplomat coordinating international talks to revive a 5-year-old deal to limit Iran's nuclear activities has urged patience but says he thinks "the obstacles [are]...something that I think can be bridged."

Enrique Mora said on June 15 that progress had been made in Vienna, where the nuclear talks involving U.S., Iranian, and other negotiators began a fifth round last weekend.

The U.S. and Iranian delegates aren't meeting directly, but through envoys from Russia, China, France, Germany, and Britain.

"This is why we are here: to negotiate these different approaches, and I think we will succeed," Mora said.

U.S. President Joe Biden has been seeking unity on the Iranian issue among European allies during the past week of summits in the United Kingdom, Belgium, and now Switzerland.

Switzerland's foreign minister, Ignazio Cassis, meanwhile said after Biden's arrival there on June 15 that the U.S. president had expressed support for accelerating mechanisms for getting more food and medicines to Iran via a Swiss humanitarian "channel."

Cassis's country has spent decades as a diplomatic messenger between the United States and Iran, and he reportedly met with Biden for around 30 minutes.

Iran has been badly hurt by trade and economic sanctions since then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal that traded international sanctions relief for curbs on Tehran's disputed nuclear activities.

"The situation is very difficult at the moment," Cassis said, referencing this week's carefully vetted election in Iran to select a new president to replace relative moderate incumbent Hassan Rohani. "You know that [presidential] elections will be held in Iran very soon, and I think one should not have too high expectations."

Hard-line cleric and judiciary head Ebrahim Raisi is widely regarded as the front-runner among seven candidates cleared by election authorities from among hundreds of applicants to run for a five-year term as Iran's president.

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"However it is clear that the intention of this American administration is to try to find a new path, which won't be easy, because there has been a long history of feuds," Cassis added.

Biden is on the final leg of a European tour that has included a Group of Seven (G7) meeting in Britain, NATO and EU meetings in Belgium, and concludes with a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Lake Geneva on June 16.

Critics of Trump's "maximum pressure" policy to change Iran's behavior in the region frequently criticized its failure to effectively distinguish between medicine and humanitarian goods and other kinds of imports.

"The trouble is it hasn't been used enough," Cassis said of the Swiss mechanism for getting such goods to Iran, "and why? Because there are transfers of funds that still require approval, and I think on this the U.S. is willing to accelerate their decisions so that this channel can be used to its full effect."

Historically nonaligned Switzerland has represented U.S. interests in Iran since the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was overrun by revolutionaries in 1979.

Cassis said Biden discussed with Swiss President Guy Parmelin the ongoing negotiations that are in a fifth round over Biden's publicly stated desire to revive the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), whose signatories also include Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the support of the European Union.

"We talked about this nuclear agreement, about the intention of the United States to do everything it can to move things forward," he said.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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