American diplomats will return to the negotiating table next week to begin talks on a return to the Iran nuclear deal.
The State Department confirmed Friday that the Biden administration’s first big step toward rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will begin April 6 in Vienna, Austria. The U.S. will discuss potential next steps with its partners in Europe, as well as representatives from China and Russia, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
.@StateDeptSpox confirms US participating in JCPOA talks in next week.
“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,” he said. pic.twitter.com/EFACmVlgor
— Alex Ward (@AlexWardVox) April 2, 2021
Diplomats from Iran will be present at the meetings too, but the State Department does not anticipate direct talks between the representatives of Washington and Tehran. However, Price said in his statement the U.S. remains “open” to direct talks. (RELATED: ‘Bad News For The Free World’: Iran, China Ink Cooperation Agreement For 25 Years)
The “primary issues” that will be discussed are the steps both the U.S. and Iran need to take to return to compliance with the JCPOA. For Iran, that would involve curtailing nuclear activity that has resumed since the U.S. withdrew from the deal, and for the U.S., it would mean sanctions relief after former President Donald Trump ratcheted up economic pressure on the Iranians. (RELATED: Iran Could Have Enough Fissile Material For Nuclear Bomb In ‘Weeks’ If It Doesn’t Rejoin Deal, Blinken Says)
The Trump administration abandoned the 2015 deal in 2018, and President Joe Biden has made clear his goal is to return to a nuclear agreement as soon as possible. Backchannel discussions haven’t proven fruitful thus far, as both sides remain wary of being the first to agree to concessions, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Washington’s European partners, who have remained in the JCPOA despite the departure of the U.S., have served as intermediaries for negotiations so far. They reportedly suggested a face-to-face meeting between American and Iranian officials but were rebuffed by the Iranians.
The complex back-and-forth, which has involved shifting Iranian demands and a stalemate between the two sides over who will move first, is further challenged by an increasingly urgent timeline. Iran will hold elections in June, which could further delay negotiations by ushering in a new administrative regime led by anti-Western hardliners.