The remaining parties to the faltering 2015 Iran nuclear accord met on Wednesday after Tehran announced plans for a new breach of the deal, and as uncertainty reigns ahead of US President-elect Joe Biden’s January inauguration.
The meeting of the so-called “joint commission” included China, France, Russia, Iran, Germany and Britain and was chaired by senior EU foreign affairs official Helga Schmid.
The meeting, which lasted around two hours, was held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has unravelled steadily since US President Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018 and went on to impose crippling economic sanctions on Iran.
Tehran has retaliated by progressively abandoning limits on its nuclear activity laid down in the deal, most recently planning to install advanced centrifuges at Iran’s main nuclear enrichment plant in Natanz.
Last week France, Germany and Britain — collectively known as the “E3” — condemned the plan as “deeply worrying”. Meanwhile the assassination last month of prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has heightened tensions in the region, with Iran blaming the killing on Israel.
In the wake of Fakhrizadeh’s death, Iranian MPs passed a bill calling for further expansion to Iran’s nuclear programme and an end to inspections of nuclear facilities by the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The Iranian foreign ministry said it did not agree with the bill and President Hassan Rouhani has suggested he will not sign it into law. Rouhani has defied criticism from Iran’s ultra-conservatives to state his determination to seize the “opportunity” presented by the change of US president in January.
Rouhani has said Iran is ready to come back into compliance with the deal as soon as other parties fulfil their commitments. President-elect Biden has said he is willing to return to the deal but has revealed little else about forthcoming US strategy on the question.