EU's foreign policy chief to travel to Iran in de-escalation mission

BRUSSELS, Feb 2 (Reuters) - The head of the European Union's foreign service, Josep Borrell, will travel to Iran next week to meet the country's leaders in a bid to reduce tensions in the Middle East, the EU said in a statement on Sunday.

During in his trip on Monday and Tuesday, Borrell will meet Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif among others.

"Borrell received a strong mandate from the EU foreign ministers to engage in diplomatic dialogue with regional partners, to de-escalate tensions and seek opportunities for political solutions to the current crisis," the statement said.

Tensions in the region stepped up after the killing in early January of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani by the United States in Iraq.

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"The visit will also be an opportunity to convey the EU's strong commitment to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," the statement said, referring to the nuclear deal that Iran reached with six major powers in 2015, and from which the United States withdrew in 2018.

The EU serves as guarantor of the nuclear deal, and Borrell has a formal role in its dispute resolution process, which Britain, France and Germany activated in January after Iran said it was no longer abiding by some limits on nuclear material. (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio Editing by Peter Graff)

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