Parties to convene in Austria, trying to bring Iran nuclear deal back to life
Parties to the Iran nuclear deal have agreed to convene in Austria next week to discuss ways to bring the deal back to life.
The deal, formally named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was reached in 2015 between Iran and the United States, Britain, Russia, France, China, Germany and the European Union (EU).
Washington withdrew from the deal in 2018 and tightened sanctions on Iran under former President Donald Trump. In response to the U.S. moves, Iran suspended the implementation of parts of its obligations under the deal.
The United States confirmed on Friday that it would attend the meeting scheduled to begin on Tuesday in Austria, saying it remains "open to" direct talks with Tehran.
"We have agreed to participate in talks with our European, Russian, and Chinese partners to identify the issues involved in a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA with Iran," State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
"These remain early days, and we don't anticipate an immediate breakthrough as there will be difficult discussions ahead. But we believe this is a healthy step forward," he added.
He said that the primary issues to be discussed in the meeting "are the nuclear steps that Iran would need to take in order to return to compliance with the terms of the JCPOA, and the sanctions relief steps that the United States would need to take in order to return to compliance as well."
"We do not anticipate presently that there will be direct talks between the United States and Iran through this process, though the United States remains open to them," he said.
The EU said earlier in the day that parties to the Iran nuclear deal will convene in Vienna, Austria next week to discuss the possibility of lifting sanctions on Iran and the country's responsibility for further implementing the agreement.
Representatives of China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and Iran, known as the participants in the JCPOA, met virtually on Friday morning, and "agreed to resume this session of the Joint Commission in Vienna next week, in order to clearly identify sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures," the EU said in a statement.
"Positive meeting today," Deputy Secretary-General and Political Director of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora tweeted following the meeting. The parties will reconvene in Vienna next week, with "substantial work ahead for a key opportunity" to bring the JCPOA back to life, he added.
The participants recognized the prospect of a full return of the United States to the JCPOA, and "underlined their readiness to positively address this in a joint effort," said the EEAS statement. They also "emphasized their commitment to preserve the JCPOA and discussed modalities to ensure the return to its full and effective implementation."
Tehran will be aiming for the "choreographed removal of all sanctions" followed by "Iran ceasing remedial measures," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on social media after Friday's online meeting.
Zarif was quoted by IRNA news agency as saying that no meeting will be held between Iranian and U.S. representatives, since it is "unnecessary."
At the online meeting, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi stressed the Iranian position that no negotiation is needed for Washington to return to the nuclear deal.
"The same way the U.S. withdrew from the agreement and imposed illegal sanctions on Iran, it can return to the agreement and put an end to its lawbreaking," Araqchi said, according to IRNA.
Araqchi pointed to the lifting of the U.S. sanctions as the first step in reviving the JCPOA, and said that Tehran's compliance reduction steps would be stopped as soon as Tehran verifies that sanctions are lifted.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who attended the virtual meeting, said that there is no alternative to the JCPOA.
All parties involved should make every effort for the earliest possible return of the Iran nuclear deal to the originally established framework, Ryabkov said.
The participants paid special attention to the measures that should be taken by the United States to eliminate previously committed violations of the JCPOA and to lift its sanctions against Iran, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a press release.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said it is good that all the relevant actors will meet to work on fully implementing the nuclear agreement again.
"We have no time to lose," he said in a statement published by the German Foreign Ministry. "A fully respected agreement would be a plus in security for the entire region and the best basis for discussions on other important questions of regional stability."