The members of the Iran nuclear deal and the United States will visit Vienna next week in the first effort to kickstart face-to-face negotiations to salvage the pact since the Biden administration came into office, a senior administration official said.
Senior officials from the governments of Iran, France, the UK, Germany, Russia, China, the US and the EU will all be in the same city. The American and Iranian officials will not meet directly, but the US team plans to meet officials from the other countries that are signatories to the deal, the senior administration official said. It is unclear how long the meetings will last for, the official said.
The meeting was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
On Friday, the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the nuclear deal, met virtually without the United States and confirmed another meeting will take place next week in Vienna.
The commission will meet relevant experts to “to clearly identify sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures.”
The Biden administration said that discussions in Vienna will focus on identifying actions that both the US and Iran will need to take in order to come back into compliance with the Iran deal, including the US lifting sanctions.
“The primary issues that will be discussed 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,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Friday.
The administration has previously said that it will not lift sanctions just to get Iran to the negotiating table, but they have rolled back some Trump administration obstacles to diplomatic engagement.
In February, the US informed the UN Security Council that it was reversing the Trump administration’s unilateral efforts to snap-back UN sanctions on Iran and lifted travel restrictions placed on Iranian diplomats to the United Nations by the Trump administration.
“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. “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.”
The Vienna talks will begin on Tuesday, Price said.
In 2018, then President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the deal, which is aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear program. President Joe Biden has said the US will rejoin the nuclear deal once Tehran returns to full compliance with its agreements under the deal.
This is the beginning of what is expected to be a long process of negotiations to bring the Iran and the US back into compliance with the deal.
This meeting comes before Iran or the US have taken any tangible action to salvage or return to compliance with the agreement.
Friday’s news follows a meeting earlier in the day of the Joint Commission – in which the US did not participate – to “discuss the prospect of a possible return of the United States to the JCPOA and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement by all sides,” according to a Thursday statement from the European Union.
On Thursday Price called Friday’s Joint Commission meeting “a positive step.”
“We have been clear for weeks now that we are ready to pursue a return to compliance with our JCPOA commitments consistent with Iran also doing the same,” Price said at a State Department briefing Thursday. “We have also been open about the fact that we have been talking with our partners in the P5+1 context and elsewhere about the best way to achieve this, including through a series of initial mutual steps.”
“We’ve been looking at options for doing so, including with indirect conversations through our European partners,” he said.
Iran has increasingly breached its commitments under the landmark 2015 nuclear deal since the US abandoned the pact in May 2018 and the Trump administration pursued its “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against Tehran.
On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in a tweet that a direct meeting between the US and Iran was “unnecessary.”
“At virtual JCPOA JC meeting, Iran & EU/E3+2 agreed to resume in-person talks in Vienna next Tues,” he said. “Aim: Rapidly finalize sanction-lifting & nuclear measures for choreographed removal of all sanctions, followed by Iran ceasing remedial measures.”
CNN’s Nic Robertson contributed to this report.