WASHINGTON: Nuclear deal talks with Iran in Vienna have shown modest progress and the United States hopes to build on that this week, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday amid efforts to revive a 2015 agreement.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its atomic activities but Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the deal in 2018, a year after he took office.
Iran later breached many of the deal’s nuclear restrictions and kept pushing well beyond them. Tehran says it has never pursued the development of nuclear weapons.
In the latest round of indirect talks between Iran and the United States in Vienna, Tehran is focused on getting US sanctions lifted again.
“There was some modest progress in the talks last week. We hope to build on that this week,” Price told reporters.
“Sanctions relief and the steps that the United States would take… when it comes to sanctions together with the nuclear steps that Iran would need to take if we were to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA – that’s really at the heart of the negotiations that are ongoing in Vienna right now.”
Meanwhile, Iran said it has detected a new “realism” on the part of Western countries, as further meetings in Vienna aimed at rescuing the accord got underway.
The talks resumed in late November and the latest round was set to formally get underway on Monday after a three-day break for the end of year holidays.
Tehran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri met with EU coordinator Enrique Mora, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.
Bagheri held a separate meeting with top negotiators from the European parties to the deal, the agency added.
Monday’s meetings were “informal,” Russia’s envoy in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said on Twitter.
The meetings came hours after Tehran detected what it called a sense of “realism” from Western parties.
“We sense a retreat, or rather realism from the Western parties in the Vienna negotiations, that there can be no demands beyond the nuclear accord,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters.
However, “it is too early to judge if the United States and the three European countries have drawn up a real agenda to commit to lifting sanctions,” he said.