Biden will be part of a discussion on Iran in the margins of the Group of 20 summit in Rome with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to find out how to proceed. The meeting was convened at Merkel’s request.
The discussion comes a day after the United States imposed new sanctions on Iran over its drone program, and less than a week after Tehran announced it would return to nuclear talks in Vienna after a four-month hiatus.
Iran’s nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was abandoned by the United States during the Trump administration. And negotiations to revive the agreement in Vienna were suspended at the end of June after six rounds between Iran, China, Germany, France, Russia, Britain and – indirectly – the United States.
White House officials say there is no specific goal from the meeting. Instead, they say this is an attempt to sort out the next steps and ensure all parties are on the same page.
“(T) the main purpose of the four of them coming together – this was in fact a Merkel initiative – is that we are in a critical moment and these four leaders have not actually had the opportunity to sit and talk about Iran, “a senior administration official told reporters on Friday. “And they need to have private space to have, you know, the conversation without BS about where we are and where we’re going.”
The official called the meeting “a serious opportunity to control signals as we enter a truly vital period on this issue.”
Officials say they want the United States to return to the negotiating table by the end of November. But the negotiators selected by Iran’s new hardline leadership are openly opposed to the nuclear deal, leaving some optimism in Washington.
Sources in Washington told CNN that there is an ongoing debate in the Biden administration on how to proceed and how much to increase the pressure on Iran.
A person familiar with discussions told CNN that Biden will discuss potential options during his G20 meetings with allies and that these costs could be imposed even if the Iran negotiations are ongoing.
But they say the United States and its allies are now more willing to impose higher costs on Iran in order not to reach an agreement if Tehran continues to take measures incompatible with the 2015 nuclear deal and bring it closer to developing a nuclear weapon. . .
A European diplomat said Tehran’s willingness to resume negotiations “is not a solution, but it is a reasonably important step forward.” This diplomat and others had seen Iran’s delay in returning to the negotiations in Vienna as a brake tactic while the country continued to develop its nuclear program. Now there is broad discussion about “pushing up the pressure” on Iran, this diplomat said.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who briefed journalists on his way to Rome, said Saturday’s meeting was an opportunity to “closely coordinate” with European counterparts “on a common negotiating position as we work towards a resumption of negotiations. “as well as” level set “on our understanding of Iran’s progress with the nuclear program since leaving the JCPOA.”
Sullivan said on Thursday that “it was not entirely clear to (him) yet whether the Iranians are ready to return the talks,” noting that “we have heard positive signals that they are, but I think We have to wait and see when and if they actually show up at the negotiating table. “
CNN’s Kylie Atwood, Nicole Gaouette and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.