The Biden administration has called for an “imminent” return to talks in Vienna to revive the Iran nuclear deal, but said a resumption of the negotiations is “hinging on the Iranians”.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on Thursday that Washington is willing to continue the talks as soon as Tehran agrees to re-engage in the negotiations, stressing that the path to diplomacy is still open.
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Negotiations have been on ice since June, shortly after the election of Iran’s conservative President Ebrahim Raisi.
“We have made very clear that we are prepared, willing and able to return to Vienna as soon as we have a partner to negotiate with,” Price said.
The 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saw Iran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting international sanctions against its economy.
Former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 as part of his maximum pressure campaign against Iran, which in response has been enriching uranium well beyond the limits set by the pact.
President Joe Biden has said he is seeking a return to the 2015 deal, negotiated by the Obama administration in which he served as vice president. But six rounds of indirect talks in the Austrian capital have failed to produce a path to restore the JCPOA.
On Thursday, Price said the Biden administration hopes to pick up the negotiations where they stopped, suggesting that Washington opposes restarting talks from scratch with the new government in Tehran.
“It is important for the parties to come back together to continue, to resume where we left off in Vienna after the sixth round, so that we can resume this seventh round on the basis of what we have accomplished to date,” he said.
Raisi’s government has adopted a stern tone towards the US, saying that any talks must result in removing all sanctions against the country.
Last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Iran would return to the Vienna talks “very soon” however.
Price said he hoped the Iranian government’s definition of “soon” matches that of the US administration, asserting that the process cannot go on “indefinitely”.
“We are firmly of the belief that we need to work quickly; we need to work with alacrity and a great deal of speed to see to it if we can achieve that mutual return to compliance that we have been sincere and steadfast in seeking to achieve,” he said.
In a meeting earlier this week with his Israeli counterpart Eyal Hulata, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington is prepared for the possibility that efforts to restore the JCPOA may fail.
The Israeli government has been vocal in its opposition to the JCPOA since it was signed six years ago.
“Mr. Sullivan emphasized President Biden’s fundamental commitment to Israel’s security and to ensuring that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon,” a US National Security Council statement describing the talks between Sullivan and Hulata said.
“Mr. Sullivan explained that this administration believes diplomacy is the best path to achieve that goal, while also noting that the President has made clear that if diplomacy fails, the United States is prepared to turn to other options.”