The United States, in apparent moves to tamp down tensions with a bitter rival, says it is prepared to meet with Iran over its nuclear program and it eased “extremely restrictive” limits on movements of Iranian diplomats accredited at the New York-headquartered United Nations.
The U.S. administration on February 18 also notified the UN Security Council that it had withdrawn then-President Donald Trump’s September 2020 invoking of the “snapback” mechanism under which it insisted that all UN sanctions against Iran were to be reimposed.
Richard Mills, the acting U.S. ambassador to the UN, said in a letter that sanctions purported to be reinstated in August “remain terminated.”
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the time insisted the United States was technically still a part in the 2015 accord and that it was triggering UN sanctions for Iranian violations.
However, even U.S. allies dismissed Pompeo’s argument and the UN said no such sanctions would come into effect.
The series of moves represents a change in tenor with regards to relations between Washington and Tehran.
Trump had taken a hard line with Iran, accusing it of fomenting extremist violence in the Middle East and of attempting to develop nuclear weapons, allegations Tehran has denied.
In May 2018, Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran. In turn, Iran began breaching terms of the accord.
President Joe Biden has expressed a willingness to reengage with Tehran, although he has insisted it must return to the terms of the 2015 deal before it would discuss the possibility of easing sanctions.
The State Department said the United States would accept an invitation from the European Union to attend a meeting of the signees of the nuclear deal.
Washington has not participated in such meetings since Trump withdrew from the deal.
“The United States would accept an invitation from the European Union High Representative to attend a meeting of the P5+1 and Iran to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
An invitation has not yet been issued, but one is expected shortly, following discussions on February 18 among top U.S., British, French, and German diplomats.
Meanwhile, the U.S. mission to the UN said the United States was easing tough restrictions imposed by the Trump administration on movements of Iranian UN diplomats.
“The idea here is to take steps to remove unnecessary obstacles to multilateral diplomacy by amending the restrictions on domestic travel. Those had been extremely restrictive,” a State Department official told reporters.
Trump in 2019 barred Iranian diplomats from all but a few blocks around the UN headquarters and their mission.
Iranian diplomats will still be subject to restrictions on diplomats linked to nations with poor relations with the United States, such as North Korea, the State Department said. Those require authorization to travel beyond a 40-kilometer radius from Manhattan.