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U.S., Iran to start indirect negotiations on returning to nuclear deal

A State Department spokesperson said that while the U.S. doesn’t anticipate an immediate breakthrough, "we believe this is a healthy step forward."
/ Source: Associated Press

Washington and Tehran have agreed to indirect talks on returning to the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. State Department said Friday.

The negotiations to bring both countries into compliance with the agreement, which will begin in Vienna next week, will include what Iran must do about curtailing nuclear enrichment and any needed steps by the U.S. to lift economic sanctions the Trump administration imposed after leaving the pact in 2018, a department spokesman said.

"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," spokesperson Ned Price said. "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."

"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," Price added.

The chair of the group of major powers in the pact, including the EU, China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and Iran said Friday that the participants “emphasized their commitment to preserve the JCPOA and discussed modalities to ensure the return to its full and effective implementation," according to a statement after their virtual meeting, referring to the acronym for the accord — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The group said they would resume further talks next week in Vienna, “in order to clearly identify sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures.”

The statement also said that the group’s coordinator “will also intensify separate contacts in Vienna” with all participants of the nuclear agreement and the United States.

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In Tehran, state television quoted Abbas Araghchi, Iran's nuclear negotiator in the Friday virtual meeting, as saying in the meeting that any “return by the U.S. to the nuclear deal does not require any negotiation and the path is quite clear.”

“The U.S. can return to the deal and stop breaching the law in the same way it withdrew from the deal and imposed illegal sanctions on Iran,” Araghchi was quoted as as saying.