A senior US official warned that Tehran’s insistence on lifting all US sanctions could lead to a “deadlock” in the ongoing Vienna talks, which seek to return both Iran and the United States to full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The senior US official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, revealed some details about the US assessment of the first round of indirect talks between the two sides within the framework of the P5+1 group: the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, in addition to Germany, who are the original parties of the nuclear deal with Iran.
He also reviewed other contacts with Austrian and Swiss officials and others as part of a parallel US effort to free US detainees in Iranian prisons.
Despite the absence of direct meetings between the two sides, diplomatic efforts by European, Russian and Chinese mediators achieved “some progress” in the talks aimed at reviving the nuclear deal.
This new development, which US President Joe Biden’s administration describes as “positive”, took place during meetings of two working groups.
The first was devoted to specifying the nuclear steps that Iran should take to return to “full compliance” with its obligations under the agreement, while the second sought to define the sanctions that the US must lift to return to its commitments in the agreement.
The second round of indirect negotiations is expected to be held next week.
Describing the initial outcome of the Vienna talks as a “first step in the first stage,” the senior US official stressed that not all sanctions imposed on Iran during then-President Donald Trump’s tenure would be lifted, which would mean the possibility of maintaining sanctions targeting the central bank, terrorist activities and human rights violations.
He said that the American “evaluation”, with the other European, Russian and Chinese participants, noted “very serious ideas” put forward by the US team with regards to the return to full compliance with the nuclear deal.
The senior official added that the discussions were fruitful and practical amid a “very constructive atmosphere,” but emphasized that there was still a question about whether this American seriousness “will be met with reciprocity from Iran.”
There are “some indications of this, but they are not sufficient”, as “there are question marks about whether Iran is willing to do what is necessary to adopt a pragmatic approach to resume its obligations under the deal,” the US official remarked.