WASHINGTON — The United States made a major move on Thursday toward restoring the Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration abandoned, offering to join European nations in what would be the first substantial diplomacy with Tehran in more than four years, Biden administration officials said.
In an effort to make good on one of President Biden’s most significant campaign promises, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with European foreign ministers and agreed that the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran “was a key achievement of multilateral diplomacy,” and one worth pursuing again, according to a State Department statement.
Mr. Biden has said he would lift sanctions imposed by President Donald J. Trump if Iran returned to the sharp limits on nuclear production that it observed until 2019.
Iran has said the United States was the first to violate the terms of the 2015 nuclear accord, and that it would act only after the United States reversed course and allowed it to sell oil and conduct banking operations around the world. A senior Biden administration official said on Thursday evening that closing that gap would be a “painstaking” process.
The announcement will open what is likely to be a delicate set of diplomatic offerings.
The sparring over who moves first will be just the first of many hurdles. And with a presidential election only four months away in Iran, it was not clear if the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the nation’s political and military leadership would fully support re-engagement with the United States.
A second senior Biden administration official said the negotiations would happen if other world powers, including China and Russia, were part of them. That left open the question whether regional powers that were excluded in the last agreement — Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates — would play any role.
The State Department said that Iran must return to full compliance with the deal — as the Biden administration has insisted — before the United States would unwind a number of American economic sanctions that Mr. Trump imposed against Tehran, crippling the Iranian economy.
Until then, and as a good-will gesture, the Biden administration withdrew a demand from last fall that the United Nations Security Council enforce international sanctions against Iran for violating the original 2015 agreement that limited its nuclear program.
Nearly every other nation had rejected the Trump administration’s insistence that the United States could invoke the so-called snap back sanctions because it was no longer a part of the accord.
Additionally, the Biden administration is lifting travel restrictions on Iranian officials who seek to enter the United States to attend U.N. meetings, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity before the actions were announced.
The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Twitter that Tehran was waiting for American and European officials to “demand an end to Trump’s legacy of #EconomicTerrorism against Iran.”