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EU top diplomat holds talks in Iran 'to de-escalate tensions'

EU top diplomat holds talks in Iran 'to de-escalate tensions'”

Europe's new foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan was unlikely to succeed as he prepared to make his first visit to Iran.

On January 24, Borrell called for a meeting of remaining states party to the 2015 nuclear deal in February in an effort to preserve the agreement, which has been crumbling since the United States unilaterally withdrew in 2018.

"He is set to meet the foreign minister (Mohammad Javad Zarif) and other Iranian senior officials for consultations", foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Moussavi said in a statement.

An uneasy quiet has settled over the Middle East in the month since a US drone strike killed the top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Iran began reducing its commitments under the nuclear deal a year ago to put pressure on the parties remaining in the accord to protect its economy from USA sanctions and allow the Islamic Republic to gain the full benefits outlined in the deal.

Tensions in the region stepped up after the killing in early January of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani by the United States in Iraq.

The European diplomat later met President Hassan Rouhani and is set to meet parliament speaker Ali Larijani.

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It is his first visit to Tehran since taking office.

Borrell said on January 24 that he had consulted the countries still in the deal - which also include Russian Federation and China - and that all are determined to save the accord. Tehran has responded by gradually rolling back its commitment to the deal in hopes of pressuring Europe into finding a way for Tehran to sell its crude oil overseas despite the American sanctions.

The deal struck in 2015 aims at capping Tehran's nuclear activities in return for lifting sanctions.

The President praised the joint efforts of Iran and the European Union to resolve many regional and global issues, saying, "The Islamic Republic of Iran remains committed to the IAEA's monitoring, the process of which has been continuing to date and it will continue unless we face new conditions".

Since May 2019, Iran has progressively scaled back commitments under the agreement in response to the USA sanctions and Europe's inability to circumvent them. Iran responded with a flurry of ballistic missiles at USA forces in Iraq, and announced it would no longer respect limits set on how many centrifuges it can use to enrich uranium.

It has also resumed research and development that was restricted under the deal.



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