U.S.’s Blinken: ‘the Path to Diplomacy Is Open Right Now’ with Iran

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WASHINGTON, Feb 16 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday “the path to diplomacy is open right now” with Iran over its 2015 nuclear deal but would not address whether the Biden administration has had any direct engagement with Iranian officials.

“The path to diplomacy is open right now. Iran is still a ways away from being in compliance (with the deal). So we’ll have to see what it does,” Blinken told National Public Radio according to a transcript provided by the broadcaster.

Asked if there was any move under way to resume direct diplomacy, Blinken pointed to U.S. President Joe Biden’s public stance that if Iran resumes compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal the United States would do so too.

“The president’s been very clear publicly, repeatedly, about where we stand. And we’ll see what, if any, reaction Iran has to that,” he said.

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The interviewer noted Blinken had not directly answered the question and asked: “but you’re not ruling out that direct diplomacy might be somewhere in the future here?”

Blinken responded: “Well, at some point, presumably, if there’s going to be any engagement on this, that would have to require diplomacy. That’s what we’re in the business of.”

In 2018, former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear deal, which limited Iran‘s uranium enrichment activity to make it harder for Tehran to develop nuclear arms – an ambition Iran has long denied having – in return for the easing of U.S. and other sanctions.

When Trump left the deal, which Iran struck with six major powers, he reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran‘s economy.

In response, Tehran has breached the deal’s key limits, enriching uranium to 20% – above a 3.67% cap but below the 90% needed for weapons – expanding its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, and using advanced centrifuges for enrichment.

Iran has told the U.N. nuclear watchdog it will scale back cooperation with it in a week, ratcheting up protests against U.S. sanctions still choking its economy.

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(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed)

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