image Photo: Reuters

US: No plans to meet Iran at UNGA

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has no plans to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian at the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

By Erin Viner

This, according to Washington’s Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

“We have not made any direct plans for bilateral meetings while they are here, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t see value in having discussions with the Iranians because we do want to move forward on issues related to the JCPOA,” she said, referring to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. “We have been engaged with the Iranians in Vienna, and those discussions will continue,” she added.

The US and Iran began indirect talks in Austria last April aimed at returning both parties into compliance with the pact, but the negotiations have not been resumed since the Iranian presidential elections in June that saw hardline new leader Ebrahim Raisi take office.

Both Raisi and Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian have announced plans to travel to the UN headquarters in New York City for the UNGA opening.

Iran had accepted curbs on its nuclear program in return for a lifting of many international sanctions against the Islamic Republic under its JCPOA deal with the US, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China. After accusing Tehran of violating the terms, former US President Donald Trump abandoned the pact in 2018 and re-imposed harsh sanctions; after which Iran openly began breaching many of its nuclear limits.

Meanwhile, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell announced that ministers from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia will also not meet with Iran at the UN.

“Some years it happens, some years it doesn’t happen. It’s not in the agenda,” said Borrell, who acts as coordinator for the JCPOA.

“But the important thing is not this ministerial meeting, but the will of all parties to resume negotiations in Vienna,” he said. He added that he does intend to meet his new Iranian counterpart Amirabdollahian on Tuesday, when he will press Tehran’s top diplomat to resume talks as soon as possible.

“After the elections the new presidency asked for the delay in order to take fully take stock of the negotiations and understand better everything about this very sensitive file,” said the EU foreign policy chief, stressing that, “The summer has already passed by and we expect that the talks can be resuming soon in Vienna.”

Borrell’s statements counter earlier comments by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian that had signaled a possible ministerial meeting of the nuclear deal parties in New York. “We need to take advantage of this week to restart these talks,” said the top Paris diplomat yesterday, while insisting, “Iran must accept to return as quickly as possible by appointing its representatives for the negotiations.”

Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More than 100 heads of state and government will appear in person in the General Assembly including Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who will address the international body on Monday.

US President Joe Biden will address the assembly later today.