15:38 GMT25 February 2021
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    The talks come against the backdrop of increasing US-Iran tensions which exacerbated after Tehran’s suspension of some of its obligations under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and subsequent deployment of a US aircraft carrier and bomber strike group to the Middle East to tackle the alleged Iranian threat.

    Iran has launched a “regional shuttle diplomacy” effort following the US’ move to send an aircraft carrier and other military assets to the Middle East amid escalating Washington-Tehran tensions, Bloomberg reports.

    Earlier on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met Iraqi counterpart Mohammed al-Hakim in Baghdad, while Zarif’s deputy Abbas Araghchi kicked off a tour of Gulf Arab neighbouring countries, including Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

    READ MORE: Iran Showing 'Maximum Restraint' in Face of US Exit From Nuclear Deal — Zarif

    Speaking to reporters after talks with al-Hakim, Zarif specifically called for more “practical actions” to be taken to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

    Additionally, Zarif signalled Iran's resolve to tackle possible military or economic aggression against the Islamic Republic.

    Zarif also indicated Tehran’s readiness to bolster balanced ties with its immediate neighbours in the Gulf, adding that Iran proposed signing a non-aggression pact with these countries.

    Earlier, Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Sahaf underscored that Baghdad was ready to act as a mediator between Iran and the US to help the two countries improve their relations.

    READ MORE: US Fundamentally Does Not Seek War With Iran — Pompeo

    The Islamic Republic’s shuttle diplomacy comes as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made it clear earlier on Sunday that Tehran could hold a public referendum over the fate of the JCPOA.

    “Article 59 of the Constitution (referendum) is a deadlock breaker […] and could be a problem-solver at any junction. When this article should be used or whether it should’ve been used before is another matter”, Rouhani was quoted by the semi-official ILNA news agency as saying.

    On May 8 2018, US President Donald Trump announced Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA, reinstating strict economic sanctions on Iran.

    Exactly a year later, Tehran announced that it would backtrack on some of its “voluntary” commitments under the Iran deal, giving European signatories 60 days to ensure that Iran's interests were protected under the agreement.

    READ MORE: Trump Won't Risk a War He's Not Certain to Win — Analyst on US-Iran Escalation

    Washington, in turn, slapped more anti-Iranian sanctions aimed at the Islamic Republic’s iron, steel, aluminium, and copper sectors. The US then delivered its Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and a bomber task force to the Middle East to send “a clear and unmistakable message” to Tehran.

    The US also announced the deployment of an additional 1,500 troops to the region as the Trump administration advanced the sale of weapons worth billions of dollars to countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to contain what Washington describes as Iran’s “malign” activities in the Middle East.

    Tehran has repeatedly denied the allegations, condemning the US sabre-rattling as “psychological warfare” and expressing readiness to retaliate against a potential military conflict.


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    obligations, military equipment, aircraft carrier, tensions, talks, Iran nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Javad Zarif, Iran, US
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