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LONDON: Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley has said that the US hopes Iran will return in earnest to talks over curbs to its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, but that Washington is making preparations for all other scenarios.

In an online press briefing attended by Arab News, Malley explained that Iran has two paths ahead of it: Returning to diplomacy and re-engaging with negotiations, or a total breakdown of negotiations by Iran delaying talks in perpetuity or making demands that exceed the parameters of the negotiations.

“Countries, whether they are in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) or E3 (France, Germany, Italy) see two paths clearly laid out ahead,” said Malley.

“One in which Iran, the United States and other parties in the P5+1 take their responsibilities seriously to find solutions to the remaining issues that were left open after the sixth round of talks in Vienna … so that Iran would live by the constraints on its nuclear program that it agreed to in Vienna in 2016.” He said that on this path the US would lift economic sanctions that are “inconsistent” with the 2016 agreement.

“Then there’s the other path,” Malley said, “that we need to at least be prepared for, which is that Iran chooses a different direction, and continues to either delay the resumption of talks or comes back with demands that clearly exceed the parameters of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. We are increasingly concerned that is the path Iran is on.

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“It is in Iran’s hands to choose which one it wants to take.”

“If it chooses the second path President Biden and Secretary Blinken have both said if diplomacy fails we have other tools, and we will use other tools, to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” said Malley.

The envoy remained tight-lipped on the exact actions that Washington would take if Iran refused to return in earnest to negotations but said: “We have to be prepared for anything.”

He explained that the US would always be open to diplomacy with Iran to resolve the long-running diplomatic fissure between the two states.

However, he said, “the window for negotiations on a return to the JCPOA will not be open forever, but this is not a chronological clock — it’s a technological clock. At some point, the JCPOA will have been so eroded, because Iran will have made advances that cannot be reversed, in which case you can’t revive a dead corpse. But we’re not there yet.”


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