Iran nuclear deal

US ‘remains open’ to direct talks with Iran next week: State Department

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Next week’s talks in Vienna to discuss the now-defunct Iran nuclear deal will not see direct meetings between officials from the US and Tehran, but a State Department official said Friday that Washington remained “open to them.”

“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,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

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Shortly after news broke that the US had agreed to an Iranian proposal to look at ways of a “mutual return” to compliance with the JCPOA, an acronym for the Iran nuclear deal, the State Department confirmed its agreement to participate in talks.

The talks will involve European countries, Russia and China.

“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,” Price said.

Price revealed that the talks set to begin in Austria on April 6 would focus on 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.”

Since President Joe Biden took office, Washington has said that it would lift sanctions imposed by the Trump administration only after Iran returned to full compliance with the JCPOA.

But Iran has refused and said that the US withdrew from the deal, so it must act first.

The Biden administration has floated multiple proposals to Iran through intermediaries, only to have them all rejected.

Now, reports indicate that Iran has suggested a coordinated plan where both sides take simultaneous steps to return to the deal gradually.

One of those proposals involves Iran not producing 20 percent enriched uranium and halting work on its advanced centrifuges, according to media reports.

In return, the US would release at least $1 billion in frozen funds held up by sanctions. The US would also ease sanctions to allow for Iran to export more oil across the globe.

No mention was made of Iran’s ballistic missile program or its proxies, despite Biden administration officials saying they wanted “a longer, stronger deal.”

Later Friday, US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley tweeted about the talks.

“This is a first step. Difficult discussions ahead but on the right path,” he said.

Read more: EU set to sanction more Iranians for rights abuses, first since 2013: Diplomats

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