US confirms to join the nuclear deal meeting, ‘open’ to direct talks with Iran

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The United States on Friday confirmed it would take part in a meeting in Vienna next week on the Iran nuclear deal and offered to sit down directly there with Tehran.

The announcement came after a video conference of participants in the 2015 accord — including China, France, Germany, Russia, and Britain — as they look to bring Washington back on board following former leader Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw.

Officials will meet in-person in the Austrian capital “to clearly identify sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures, including through convening meetings of the relevant expert groups”, a statement from the European Union, which coordinates the deal, said.

“The coordinator will also intensify separate contacts in Vienna with all JCPOA participants and the United States,” it said, referring to the deal by its initials.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the meeting would take place Tuesday and insisted the aim was to “rapidly finalise sanction-lifting and nuclear measures for choreographed removal of all sanctions, followed by Iran ceasing remedial measures.”

“No Iran-US meeting. Unnecessary,” he wrote on Twitter.

New US President Joe Biden has promised to rejoin the agreement on condition Iran first returns to respecting commitments it abandoned in retaliation for Trump pulling out.

But Tehran says Washington has to lift international sanctions that were reimposed by Trump before it will make any moves to get back in line, and is refusing to hold direct negotiations with the US.

  • ‘Substantial work ahead’ –

Senior EU diplomat Enrique Mora, who chaired the talks, described Friday’s virtual meeting as “positive”, but warned there was much left to do to revive the deal.

“Substantial work ahead for a key opportunity to bring JCPOA back to life,” he tweeted.

The painstakingly negotiated deal saw Iran granted relief from international sanctions in exchange for accepting limits on its nuclear programme aimed at easing fears it could acquire an atomic weapon.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said it was “good that all the relevant actors would meet in Vienna next week”.

“We have no time to waste. A treaty that is fully respected once again would be a plus for security throughout the region,” he said.

Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov said “the impression is that we are on the right track but the way ahead will not be easy and will require intensive efforts. The stakeholders seem to be ready for that”.

“Possible US return to JCPOA apparently will require Washington’s full compliance with the nuclear deal,” he wrote on Twitter.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Thursday said Washington was “ready to pursue a return to compliance with our JCPOA commitments consistent with Iran also doing the same”.

Washington was speaking to partners “about the best way to achieve this, including through a series of initial mutual steps,” he said.

“We’ve been looking at options for doing so, including with indirect conversations through our European partners,” Price added.

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