US join Vienna aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal
The United States will join talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal,
which the Trump administration abandoned in 2018.
President Joe Biden has said he wants to return to the landmark accord.
But the six remaining state parties need to find a way for him to lift the
sanctions imposed by his predecessor and for Iran to return to the agreed
limits on its nuclear programme. Iran has said it will not meet
the US face to face until that happens.
“We don’t underestimate the scale of the challenges ahead,”
US state department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Monday.
“These are early days. We don’t anticipate an early or immediate breakthrough,
as these discussions, we fully expect, will be difficult.”
Mr Biden’s special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, told PBS Newshour last week
that his goal was to “see whether we could agree on a road map back to
compliance for both sides”. He added: “The United States knows that,
in order to get back into compliance, it’s going to have to lift those sanctions that
are inconsistent with the deal that was reached with Iran.”
When asked about the comments at a news conference in Tehran on Tuesday,
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said he “saluted” them.
“We find this position realistic and promising,” he added. “It could be the start
of correcting the bad process that had taken diplomacy to a dead end.”
Mr Rabiei reiterated that Iran was “ready to mutually return to all its obligations in
the shortest possible time after verifying the fulfilment of the obligations by the other parties”.
The nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),
has been in intensive care since Donald Trump pulled the US out of it.
He said it was based on “a giant fiction that a murderous regime desired only
a peaceful nuclear energy programme” and reinstated crippling economic sanctions
in an attempt to compel Iran to negotiate a replacement.
Iran, which insists it does not want nuclear weapons, refused to do so and
retaliated by rolling back a number of key commitments under the accord.
Since the end of the year it has accelerated the breaches in an attempt to increase
pressure on the US. They have included operating advanced centrifuges to enrich
uranium, resuming enrichment to 20% concentration of the most fissile U-235 isotope,
and building a stockpile of that material.
The nuclear deal only allows Iran to produce and store limited quantities of
uranium enriched up to 3.67% concentration, which can be used to produce fuel
for commercial nuclear power plants. Uranium that is enriched to 90% or more
can be used to make nuclear weapons. Iran’s government has said the steps
were taken to comply with a law passed by parliament following
which Iranian officials blamed on Israel.