US delegation to head to Vienna for indirect Iran nuclear talks

The Biden administration still believes revival of nuclear deal is ‘viable option’, State Department spokesman says.

A top European Union official says nuclear talks will resume on Thursday in the Austrian capital [EU Delegation in Vienna/Handout via Reuters]

The United States will resume indirect nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna, the State Department has confirmed, saying the Biden administration is giving diplomacy “another chance” after little progress was made in discussions last week.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday that the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, Robert Malley, and his delegation “will plan to join the talks over the weekend”.

Top European diplomat Enrique Mora had confirmed earlier in the day that the negotiations would continue on Thursday after the seventh round of talks was halted last Friday.

US and European officials had questioned Iran’s willingness to revive the pact, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), after last week’s negotiations – the first under conservative Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

Price said the negotiations were suspended on Friday, less than a week after they began, because it was “clear” that Iran did not come with “seriousness of purpose”. But he added that restoring the deal is still a “viable option”.

“We continue to believe that a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA is possible,” Price said. “That is why we are returning for the next iteration of talks – the continuation of the seventh round in Vienna.”

Iran says it submitted two proposals last week “based on the provisions of the 2015 agreement” to revive the deal.

Former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 and started a “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against the Iranian economy that his successor Joe Biden has continued to enforce.

Iranian officials say they want all the sanctions lifted immediately, while the US administration is calling for a mutual return to compliance that would see an end to nuclear-related sanctions and a scaling back of Iran’s nuclear programme.

Tehran has been escalating its programme in response to Washington’s withdrawal from the pact.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced new sanctions against two Iranian security agencies and several officials linked to them, citing human rights abuses.

“Washington fails to understand that ‘maximum failure’ & a diplomatic breakthrough are mutually exclusive,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh wrote on Twitter, criticising the fresh sanctions.

“Doubling down on sanctions won’t create leverage—and is anything but seriousness and goodwill.”

On Wednesday, Price said Washington is prepared to negotiate a return to the deal in “good faith” and pick up the talks from where they left off after a sixth round in June before the Raisi government came into office.

Asked whether the US is giving Iran another chance by returning to the Vienna talks, the US spokesperson said: “We are giving diplomacy – diplomacy towards a mutual return to compliance – another chance because it’s in our interests.”

Source: Al Jazeera