The United States and Iran are due to begin indirect talks Tuesday in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 agreement that restricted Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told a press briefing Monday that U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley will lead the U.S. delegation to the Vienna talks in which Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia are seeking to revive the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The five other world powers are seeking to bring the U.S. back into 2015 agreement and to return Iran to full compliance with it.
Price said Tuesday’s talks will be “structured around working groups” that the European Union will form with Iran and the other remaining parties to the JCPOA. He said the agenda would focus on the “nuclear steps” that Iran would need to take to restore its compliance with the JCPOA and the “sanctions relief steps” that the U.S. would need to take to rejoin the deal.
Price said the U.S. would consider lifting nuclear-related sanctions that former President Donald Trump had reimposed on Iran in return for “more permanent and verifiable limits” on the Iranian nuclear program.
Speaking Monday in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh reiterated that his side wants the talks to focus on the U.S. lifting what he called its cruel Iran sanctions. He said Tehran will not accept the U.S. doing so in a “step-by-step” manner in tandem with Iran taking steps to resume JCPOA compliance.
“We (seek) only one step, which includes lifting of all U.S. sanctions. In return, Iran is ready to suspend its remedial measures and reverse actions,” Khatibzadeh said. Iran has referred to its expansions of uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities as remedial measures that it asserts can be reversed. But some Western nuclear experts have said that at least some of Iran’s recent advances in sensitive nuclear capabilities cannot be easily undone.
Price tried to downplay expectations for the Vienna talks, saying the U.S. does not anticipate early or immediate breakthroughs.
“These discussions, we fully expect, will be difficult,” he said. “But we do believe that these discussions with our partners and, in turn, our partners (discussions) with Iran, are a healthy step forward,” he added.
Khatibzadeh also repeated Iran’s vow not to meet directly with the U.S. as part of Tuesday’s talks. Price said the U.S. does not anticipate direct talks with Iran but remains open to them.
The two likely venues for the talks will be the Austrian capital’s Hotel Imperial and Grand Hotel Vienna, according to VOA Persian.
A VOA Persian reporter in the city identified the venues by observing Iranian delegation members moving between the two hotels, which are a few minutes’ walk from each other on opposite sides of a major boulevard, and by speaking with several hotel representatives.
The Iranian delegation members seen in video clips and photos exclusively obtained by VOA Persian could not be immediately identified.
It was not clear which of the two Vienna hotels would host Tuesday’s meeting of the U.S. and the five other world powers and which would host Iran’s meeting with the same five nations.
This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service.