Iran's Zarif hints at way to bridge nuclear deal impasse

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested a way on Monday to overcome the U.S.-Iranian impasse over who goes first in returning to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, saying a top EU official could “synchronize” or “choreograph” the moves.

FILE PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif attends a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu (not seen) in Istanbul, Turkey, January 29, 2021. Turkish Foreign Ministry /Handout via REUTERS

Zarif’s stance was a shift from his position, expressed in a Jan. 22 article in which he said the United States should remove U.S. sanctions before Iran returned to the deal.

“There can be a mechanism to basically either synchronize it or coordinate what can be done,” Zarif told CNN when asked how to bridge the gap.

Each government wants the other to resume compliance first with the agreement, which former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 but which President Joe Biden as said he will rejoin if Iran resumed “strict” compliance.

Under the accord, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program to make it harder for it to develop nuclear weapons in return for relief from U.S. and other economic sanctions.

Zarif noted the pact created a Joint Commission coordinated by the European Union foreign policy chief, now Josep Borrell. Borrell “can ... sort of choreograph the actions” needed from both sides, Zarif told CNN.

The commission includes the EU and the seven parties to the deal: Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

After abandoning the deal, Trump reimposed U.S. sanctions and imposed new U.S. economic penalties on Iran.

Analysts said Zarif’s stance might lay the ground for talks on reviving the deal despite Iran’s prior insistence that the United States lift sanctions first.

“It is entirely unsurprising to me that we are hearing, amid a largely uncompromising position from the Iranians, occasional breadcrumbs that will enable them” to enter into a negotiation, said Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution.

Reporting By Arshad Mohammed and Jonathan Landay; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Chris Reese; editing by Grant McCool