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EghtesadOnline: The European Union is always in favor of talks, including between Iran and the United States, but its constant focus has been on preserving the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the bloc's diplomatic chief said on Thursday.

"The method of talks is always the one we prefer; it is always the one we encourage … [and] invite our partners to take part on, on the basis … of respect of international rules and norms," Federica Mogherini said, when asked about possible Iran-US negotiations upon arrival for the meeting of EU defense and foreign ministers in Helsinki, Finland, EEAS reported. 

She added, however, that "first and foremost, what is existing [the nuclear deal] needs to be preserved".

Washington and Tehran have been locked in a bitter standoff since last year when US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iranian economy, according to Financial Tribune.

Tensions rose dramatically following several incidents in the Persian Gulf, including attacks on international merchant vessels in May and June, which the US used as grounds to step up pressure against Tehran. 

Iran has adopted a reciprocal plan by gradually exceeding the limits set in the nuclear deal in phases, but has declared that all moves would be reversed as soon as the economic damage of the US sanctions is compensated by other parties.

French President Emmanuel Macron last week presented a proposal to either soften sanctions on Iran or provide a compensation mechanism in return for Tehran's full compliance with the pact. 

The idea of direct talks between the two grew this week after Macron expressed hope during the G7 Summit last week that a meeting between Trump and President Hassan Rouhani could happen within weeks. 

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas welcomed the "greater willingness for dialogue" seen since the G7 and urged Iran to engage.

"Everyone must contribute, including Iran, towards de-escalating the situation in the region and we want to play our part too,” Maas told reporters before the meeting in Helsinki.

Trump showed openness to Macron's proposal of a meeting, but Rouhani said on Tuesday that the US president must first lift sanctions imposed on Tehran.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper followed up on Wednesday by urging Tehran to negotiate, but Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted Washington must respect the deal and halt "economic terrorism" against his country, AFP reported. 

Mogherini also stressed that JCPOA needs to be respected not as an international or bilateral agreement, but as "part of the body of decisions that the UN Security Council has adopted". 

"If, based on that, further work can be done on the basis of mutual understanding and respect, in a cooperative manner, we will always be there to accompany and support this approach," she said. 

Mogherini also joined talks between Britain, France and Germany on the sidelines of the EU meeting in Helsinki on Friday on how to preserve the beleaguered deal and protect shipping in the Persian Gulf. 

 

Eu Us JCPOA Iran Federica Mogherini European Union nuclear deal Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Talks Iran US Talks Preserving