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State Dept: Nuclear Deal Getting Closer; Iran on Agenda of Talks With Israeli Security Chief

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price speaks at a news conference at the State Department in Washington, D.C., U.S. February 28, 2022. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

A nuclear deal between world powers and Iran “is closer now than it was two weeks ago,” the United States Department of State’s spokesperson said on Monday, adding that upcoming discussions with Israel’s national security adviser in Washington are expected to include Iran as a central topic.

Speaking to reporters, Spokesperson Ned Price rejected earlier claims by Iran’s Foreign Ministry that the US is “procrastinating” in the negotiations, saying talks have “languished at times for months and months because of the action or oftentimes … inaction from Iran.”

The US is currently reviewing a proposal to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that was put forward by the European Union, which the bloc has described as a “final offer.”

The JCPOA was struck between Iran and world powers under the Obama administration in 2015, and imposed temporary limits on the country’s nuclear program in exchange for significant sanctions relief. Washington withdrew from the pact under the administration of then President Donald Trump in 2018. Tehran has since breached multiple caps on its nuclear activity.

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Price said Iran responded to the latest EU proposal “with several comments,” which he explained “is why it has taken us some additional time to review.” The administration, he continued, is “working as quickly as we can to put together an appropriate response.”

He expressed optimism in response to Iran appearing to drop “some of its nonstarter demands,” such as removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from Washington’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The removal of this demand is “part of the reason why a deal is closer now than it was two weeks ago,” said Price, “but the outcome of these ongoing discussions still remains uncertain as gaps do remain.”

He also touched on the visit by Israel’s national security adviser Eyal Hulata to Washington, D.C. this week, saying a meeting between Hulata and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is not expected, though Hulata will engage in “high level consultations” with other State Department officials.

“In just about every one of our in-depth engagements with our Israeli partners, Iran is a topic of conversation,” noted Price. “Oftentimes it is a central topic of conversation, and I expect that will be the case with the discussions this week.”

Successive Israeli prime ministers have expressed concern over the nuclear accord since it was first reached, with Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Monday saying that the latest EU proposal goes beyond the 2015 pact and “will pave the way for significant investment to flow into Iran’s terrorist network and to strengthening the Iranian military.”

Israel, he added, would not be “obligated” by such an agreement if it were signed.

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