By John Irish
PARIS, Nov 19 (Reuters) – France’s foreign minister warned Iran on Friday not to come to the next round of talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with a “sham” negotiating stance, a day after Paris urged the board of the U.N. atomic watchdog to send Iran a tough message.
Tehran had earlier responded to Paris by saying the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which verifies Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 deal with world powers limiting Tehran’s nuclear programme, must be “free of any political conduct
The statements highlighted rising tension before the United States, Iran and world powers resume indirect negotiations on reviving the deal on Nov. 29, five days after a meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors.
Western diplomats say time is running low to resurrect the pact, which then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, angering Iran and dismaying the other world powers involved – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June. The negotiations were interrupted after the election of a new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, who has said Iran will not back down in the talks.
Paris warned Tehran over what U.S. and European diplomats view as unrealistic demands, including a call for all U.S. and EU sanctions imposed since 2017 to be dropped.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Monde newspaper Paris wanted first to establish whether talks would resume where they ended in June.
“If this discussion is a sham, then we will have to consider the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) empty,” he said, referring to the 2015 deal.
“The United States is ready to return to the negotiations where they left off in June, so that they can be concluded quickly. We will assess from the 29th and in the following days whether this is also the Iranian will.”
France said on Thursday a strong message should be sent to Iran over its nuclear activities and a lack of cooperation.
Diplomats say it is unlikely Western powers will take tough action such as pushing an IAEA board resolution rebuking Iran for fear of jeopardising the Nov. 29 talks.
Tehran said on Friday the IAEA must not be politicised.
“As a responsible member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has always emphasised that the IAEA’s reputation as a technical and specialised body of the United Nations must be free of any political conduct,” Iran‘s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Under the 2015 deal, Iran limited its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from sanctions. Trump’s 2018 decision to reimpose U.S. sanctions prompted Tehran to begin breaching its nuclear restrictions.
(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Philippa Fletcher)