Home / News / World /  US envoy rules out push for Iran nuclear talks amidst protests and drone sales

The United States' focus has shifted away from reviving a nuclear deal as a result of Iran's crackdown on protesters and the sale of drones to Russia, according to Robert Malley, Washington's special envoy for Iran. Malley insisted to reporters in Paris that the United States would leave the door open to resume diplomacy "when and if" the time came, but that for the time being, Washington would keep up its policy of sanctions and pressure.

Since September, negotiations to relaunch a 2015 agreement between Iran and international powers have come to a standstill. After it seemed like all parties were on the verge of an agreement, Western countries accuse Iran of making irrational demands.

"If these negotiations are not happening, it's because of Iran's position and everything that has happened since (September)," Malley said.

"Our focus is not an accord that isn't moving forward, but what is happening in Iran ... this popular movement and the brutal crackdown of the regime against protesters. It's the sale of armed drones by Iran to Russia ... and the liberation of our hostages," he said referring to three American nationals held in Iran.

In September, anti-government demonstrations started after Mahsa Amini, 22, died while being held by the police. In response to Iran's violations of human rights as well as its sales of drones to Moscow, the EU, the US, Canada, and the UK have imposed sanctions.

With the installation of hundreds more sophisticated centrifuges, Iran has continued its nuclear programme. The devices enrich uranium, allowing the nation to enrich far more than was permitted by the 2015 agreement. In response to a US withdrawal under then-President Donald Trump in 2018, Iran started breaking those terms in 2019.

The 2015 agreement restricted Iran's uranium enrichment activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions, making it more difficult for Tehran to develop nuclear weapons. Iran claims it has no desire to obtain nuclear weapons.

Malley refused to specify how long Washington would put up with the current situation, but he did say that the country was prepared to use other means if diplomacy didn't succeed.

"If Iran takes the initiative to cross new thresholds in its nuclear programme, then obviously the response will be different and coordinated with our European allies," Malley said, without elaborating.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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