Secretary Antony J. Blinken At a Press Availability, 9/23/2021 (Excerpts)

September 23, 2021

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear


QUESTION:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Could I ask you about Iran?  As you know, the new foreign minister was here, Mr. Amirabdollahian.  Obviously you didn’t meet with him, but from your – your read of him from the European leaders who did meet with him, do you think that we have – that there’s a path to resume nuclear talks and to resume the – to revive the JCPOA?  At what point do you think time will run out on that?

And if I could follow up on the comment you made on Afghanistan earlier, you said that you made a concerted effort on not giving them, the Taliban, legitimacy unless there’s – unless there’s progress that’s made there.  Do you believe that the world is on board with that, including countries like China, like Pakistan, and all the countries in the P5?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks.  So a few things on Iran.  Our Special Envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, was here as well throughout the week.  He’s had a very productive few days in New York and heads back to Washington.  We don’t have yet an agreement by Iran to return to the talks in Vienna.  We’re very much prepared to return to Vienna to continue the talks, and the question is whether, and if so, when, Iran is prepared to do that.  We have been very sincere and very steadfast in pursuing a path of meaningful diplomacy to get back to mutual compliance with the JCPOA, and also to address the full range of concerns that we and many other countries have with Iran. We continue to believe that a return to mutual compliance with the agreement is in our interest.  It’s the best available option to restrict Iran’s nuclear program and to provide a platform to address its other destabilizing activities.

But as I’ve said on a few occasions recently, that possibility of getting back to mutual compliance is not indefinite.  And the challenge right now is that with every passing day, as Iran continues to take actions that are not in compliance with the agreement – particularly building larger stockpiles of highly enriched uranium to 20 percent, even to 60 percent, and spinning faster centrifuges – we will get to a point at some point in the future at which simply returning to mutual compliance with the JCPOA will not recapture the benefits of the agreement because Iran will have made too much progress in its program that would not be reversed simply by returning to the terms of JCPOA.

So this is something that our allies and partners also know and agree with.  And the question is whether Iran is prepared to come back and engage meaningfully in these talks.  We await an answer on that.