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

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell is holding talks in the Iranian capital on a mission aimed at lowering tensions over the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

Borrell’s trip, his first to Iran since taking office, follows a spike in tensions between arch foes Washington and Tehran following the January 3 assassination in Baghdad of a top Iranian general in a US drone strike.

The two-day visit opens with a meeting with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, ahead of talks with President Hassan Rouhani and parliament speaker Ali Larijani.

The landmark 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers has been falling apart since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal it in 2018. Washington has since reimposed harsh economic sanctions on the country, and initiated a campaign of "maximum pressure" against Iran.

Tehran has gradually stepped back from its own commitments under the accord and said earlier this month that it no longer considered itself bound by it.

Borrell's mission aims "to de-escalate tensions and seek opportunities for political solutions to the current crisis," his office said.

Borrell said last month that he had consulted the countries still in the accord -- which also include Russia and China -- and that all are determined to save the deal.

The current trip will allow Borrell "to convey the EU's strong commitment to preserve" the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and to discuss cooperation between the EU and Iran, his office said.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi told a press conference on February 3 that Tehran hoped Borrell's visit would help the European Union "understand" its situation and prompt the bloc to "show goodwill by taking serious measures."

A joint commission that oversees the deal and comprises representatives of all the countries involved will meet in February, he said, without giving a precise date.

With reporting by AFP, RFE and dpa

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