iran mailey-1635247305280
Robert Malley in a June 20, 2021 photo in Vienna. Malley told reporters there is a “deep and growing” concern about Iran’s continued intransigence and refusal to commit to a date to resume the negotiations in Vienna. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: The United States’ patience is “wearing thin” as Iran continues to delay nuclear talks, but Washington remains committed to “the path of diplomacy” to stop Tehran from accelerating its atomic programme although there are “other options” on the table, a US official has said.

US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley told journalists at a phone media briefing from Washington that the diplomatic efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), are currently “in a critical phase” as Iran seems to delay the resumption of the Vienna talks.

“We had six rounds of talks and now we’ve had a hiatus of many months, and the official reasons given by Iran for why we’re in this hiatus are wearing very thin. Particularly because at the same time as they are not coming to the table, they’re not prepared to discuss how we could resume mutual compliance with the JCPOA,” he explained.

He said Iran meanwhile was taking steps to expand its nuclear programme and “putting additional obstacles on the work of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], all of which is in contradiction or inconsistent with what they claim to be their desire to come back to the JCPOA.”

The Iran nuclear deal was reached was signed in 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — China, France, Russia, UK and the US in addition to Germany.

Under the deal, Tehran would curtail its nuclear program in return for relief from US, European Union and UN economic sanctions. However, in 2018 the US officially withdrew from the agree-ment after President Donald Trump ordered the reinstatement of harsher sanctions, part of his ‘max-imum pressure’ policy, Trump has described the Iran deal, signed by his predecessor Barak Obama as “horrible.” Iran since has violated many of the deal’s conditions including the limits on enriching uranium.

“The window of diplomacy is never going to be closed. We are always open to diplomatic arrangements with Iran, and we believe that this can only be resolved diplomatically,” Malley said. Nevertheless, the US envoy, who was in the Gulf region and Europe last week for consultations with US allies on the Iran talks, stressed that President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken “have both said if diplomacy fails, we have other tools and we will use other tools to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

Meanwhile, he said, it would be in Iran’s interest to fast track the talks as the revival of the deal will allow GCC countries “to develop closer ties economically with Iran, and also for European countries.”

In reply to Gulf News question, Malley said he felt, during his tour in the Gulf, that “there was unanimous support [from gulf states] for the talks, unanimous support for our efforts to revive the JCPOA, to achieving a deal on mutual compliance.” But noted that there is also “great concern” especially about “the pace and the scope of Iran’s nuclear progress.”

Earlier this week, the IAEA, UN nuclear watchdog, said in a worrying report that Tehran was expanding its enrichment of uranium beyond the highly enriched threshold of 20 percent purity at a Natanz plant where it is already enriching to 60 percent, another violation of its commitment as per the JCPOA.