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Vienna negotiations on Iran to resume next week — Department of State

Washington is ready to discuss lifting sanctions that contradict the nuclear deal

WASHINGTON, April 10. /TASS/. Participants of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran's nuclear program will again gather in Vienna approximately in the middle of the next week, a senior US State Department Official told reporters on Friday.

Talks aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program were held in Vienna on April 6-9, with the participation of Iran and the five international mediators (Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China and Russia). The United States, which withdrew from the agreement during former president Donald Trump’s tenure, sent its delegation to Vienna as well, but they had no direct contacts with Iranian negotiators. One of US President Joe Biden’s campaign pledges was to return to the agreement with Iran.

"The parties will reconvene next week in Vienna sometime mid-week," the official said via teleconference.

"We expect that the U.S. team will be back and it will be continuing this process of, again, clarifying what steps both sides need to take to come back into compliance [with the JCPOA]," he continued. "And our hope is that we’ll see from Iran a greater indication of what they’re prepared to do and greater indication that they will take a constructive attitude in getting there."

According to the official, participants of the Vienna talks will discuss the sequence of measures that Washington and Iran should take in order to revive the nuclear deal.

"The question of sequencing was not as much a focus this time," he said. "I think the participants, those who were in Vienna, felt that the first priority was to see whether they could define a common set of steps that Iran needs to take and that the U.S. needs to take.

In his opinion, the sides will return to the question of sequencing "if and when we get closer to a common understanding about what both parties need to do."

Maximum pressure strategy failed

The incumbent US administration, led by Joe Biden, believes that his predecessor’s strategy of maximum pressure on Iran has failed, and Washington now needs to find its way back to negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, the US Department of State official said.

"We start from the principle that the maximum pressure campaign, the withdrawal from the JCPOA, and the sanctions that have been imposed have simply not succeeded in making Americans, the American people or America safer," the official said.

"Iran has advanced its nuclear program in significant ways and continues to do so, and Iran has increased its belligerence in the region," he continued.

According to the official, the behaviors that the Trump administration said it was worried about have only worsened under the approach of leaving the deal and trying to impose greater pressure.

In his words, the Biden administration will continue to closely communicate with the Congress regarding JCPOA and related issues. The US diplomat also confirmed that the US government will seek to expand agreements with Iran to include Iran’s missile program along with its nuclear ambitions.

US sanctions

The senior US Department of State official said talks on Iran’s nuclear program would be in a deadlock if Tehran expects all US sanctions, imposed since 2017, to be lifted.

"The sanctions that are on the table are the ones that meet those requirements [inconsistent with the JCPOA], understanding that some sanctions won’t," the official said. "And again, if Iran sticks to the position that every sanction that has been imposed since 2017 has to be lifted or there will be no deal, then we're heading towards an impasse."

According to the official, the United States is calling upon Iran to engage in direct talks, but is not ready to pay for that in this or that form.

"We think it would be better if we could sit down with the Iranians. We’re not going to pay a price for that. And so if they don’t want to meet with us, too bad. As I said, it’s just going to be much harder to - for them to get what they say they want, which is a return - mutual return to compliance, because it’s so much harder to get the kind of discussions," he said.

"It would be much easier to have it with Iran if they were across the table from us. But if that’s their position, we can’t force them to sit with us, and we’ll have to make do," the US diplomat added.

JCPOA issue

The JCPOA, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, was signed between Iran, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (Russia, the United Kingdom, China, the United States and France) and Germany in 2015. Under the deal, Iran undertook to curb its nuclear activities and place them under total control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange of abandonment of the sanctions imposed previously by the United Nations Security Council, the European Union and the United States over its nuclear program.

The future of the deal was called in question after the United States’ unilateral pullout in May, 2018 and Washington’s unilateral oil export sanctions against Teheran. Iran argued that all other participants, Europeans in the first place, were ignoring some of their own obligations in the economic sphere, thus making the deal in its current shape senseless. This said, it began to gradually scale down its commitments under the deal.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on March 2 that JCPOA provisions were out of discussion, and the only way to revive the deal would be to cancel Washington’s sanctions against Iran. The United States, however, says it is ready to lift only the sanctions that run counter to JCPOA provisions.