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German minister expects Europe-U.S. talks on Iran soon

Andreas Rinke
·2 min read

* Maas says Biden open to a U.S. return to Iran nuclear deal

* Expects to 'enter into talks very quickly' with U.S. on Iran

* Says Biden has already shown deft diplomacy on Russia

* Says can't rush Afghanistan troop withdrawal

By Andreas Rinke

BERLIN, Jan 28 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden has shown he is open to the United States returning to the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, and European powers will likely soon begin talks with Washington on the issue, Germany's foreign minister told Reuters.

The nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was struck by Iran and six major powers in 2015 and committed Iran to restricting its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief from the United States and others.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018 and re-imposed U.S. sanctions, leading Iran to begin violating its terms.

"U.S. President Biden has shown himself open to a U.S. return to the nuclear agreement," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview for publication on Thursday.

Maas expected Germany, France and Britain would "enter into talks very quickly" with the United States on the issue. "What is clear, however, is that Iran must honour its commitments and end the current violations of the agreement," Maas said.

"If indeed the U.S. succeeds in returning to the agreement, it is linked to sanctions being lifted and no new ones being imposed," he added.

The Iranian foreign minister tweeted on Thursday that the United States should act first by returning to the deal, after Washington demanded Tehran reverse its breaches of the pact first.

In his first public comments on Iran as the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken on Wednesday reiterated Biden's policy "that if Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing".

Maas said the Biden administration's Russia policy had shown it was capable of adroit diplomacy - both on arms control and with its reaction to the detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, about which Blinken has said he is "deeply concerned".

"The new U.S. administration has reacted very clearly to the Navalny case, but at the same time it has shown it can also come to good solutions on important issues through dialogue with Russia," Maas said.

Turning to Afghanistan, Maas said the United States and European powers agreed they wanted to end NATO's mission there.

But he added that "if the U.S. and NATO troops are withdrawn before the peace negotiations make decisive progress, there is a risk that the Taliban will no longer seek a solution at the negotiating table".

"We need to proceed in a coordinated way and keep an eye on the situation on the ground."

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Giles Elgood)