US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated on Wednesday that there were no ongoing discussions about a fresh nuclear agreement with Iran following discreet diplomacy efforts between the two adversaries.
Blinken, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, clarified, “There is no agreement in progress, even though we remain open to exploring diplomatic options.”
The future relationship between the United States and Iran will be assessed based on their actions, according to Blinken, who called on Iran to refrain from taking actions that would further escalate tensions in the Middle East and with the United States.
President Joe Biden took office with the intention of rejoining the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which was abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump. However, EU-mediated talks collapsed, and widespread protests in Iran made the US increasingly hesitant to strike a deal with the Islamic state.
Nevertheless, diplomats have quietly resumed indirect talks in recent months with Oman acting as an intermediary. These discussions have primarily focused on the status of US prisoners in Iran.
The negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear accord stalled due to disagreements over the extent of relief from the broad US sanctions imposed by Trump and the timing of Iran’s return to compliance by reversing countermeasures taken in response to the US withdrawal from the agreement.
Blinken acknowledged that the Biden administration had made a “good-faith effort” to engage with European powers, China, and Russia in the pursuit of rejoining the accord, and for a while, it seemed possible.
However, he noted, “Iran either couldn’t or wouldn’t do what was necessary to get back into compliance.”
In other regional matters, Blinken has acted as an intermediary for Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which have complex relationships with the United States, as they explore the possibility of normalizing their relations.
“Both Saudi Arabia and Israel, of course, are intrigued by the potential for normalization,” Blinken said after his visit to Saudi Arabia earlier in June.
He acknowledged that achieving normalization was incredibly challenging and not an overnight occurrence, but he remained hopeful that progress could be made.
Israel managed to normalize relations with three Arab states—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco—in 2020, which was regarded as a significant achievement by both former President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
For Netanyahu, gaining recognition from Saudi Arabia would be a remarkable feat due to the country’s size, influence in the Arab world, and its role as the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites. The Saudis have emphasized the importance of progress on Palestinian rights.
On Tuesday, Blinken spoke with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, urging de-escalation in the West Bank and expressing concern over recent unrest, which included violence against Palestinian-Americans.
“We have conveyed to our friends and allies in Israel that if a fire is burning in their backyard, it will be much more challenging, if not impossible, to deepen existing agreements and potentially include Saudi Arabia,” Blinken stated.