Monday, May 23, 2022

US says sees path for deal with Iran

The Biden Administration says it sees a path to an agreement in the Vienna talks over the nuclear deal, but Iran must make “tough political decisions now”. Iran has repeatedly rejected any deadline or precondition over the deal, saying the US that unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA must first lift its sanctions against Tehran.

The comments are another sign that the Biden administration is somewhat optimistic as nuclear negotiations in Vienna get closer to a decision point. Last week, White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk stated the US and Iran are “in the ballpark” of a possible deal. 

Biden administration officials have set the end of January or beginning of February as an unofficial deadline for the talks, in large part because they believe Iran’s nuclear advances will soon render the 2015 deal ineffective. 

Iranian officials have rejected western diplomats’ remarks about a deadline for reaching an agreement in Vienna talks, and stressed Tehran is only after a good agreement. 

The State Department official, speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity, noted the talks are entering “the final stretch” this week. 

“There are still significant gaps but we can see a path for a deal if decisions are made quickly by Iran,” the official stressed. 

The official reiterated that the US will only be able to continue talks for a few more weeks, otherwise the Iranian nuclear program will be too advanced. 

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh separately on Monday said the Vienna talks have made significant progress. 

“There are still important issues left in the field of sanctions removal … Progress [made] must be acceptable in the fields of verification and assurances,” he added. 

The State Department official said the Biden administration is ready to hold direct talks with Iran, stressing such negotiations will increase the chances for a deal. 

“It will be unfortunate if we lose the chance for a deal because there were no direct talks,” the official continued. 

In recent days, the US and Iranian officials have voiced openness to meeting directly to discuss nuclear deal, after months of negotiations in Vienna between Tehran and the other signatories to the accord. 

Iran insists that the talks must lead to the removal of all American sanctions that were imposed against Tehran following Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the landmark agreement in May 2018. Tehran has also demanded credible guarantees that Washington will not abandon the deal again.

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