Iran and world powers on Tuesday held what they described as “constructive” talks, and agreed to form working groups to discuss the sanctions that Washington might lift and the nuclear curbs Tehran might observe as they try to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
While the US and Iran have said that they do not expect any quick breakthroughs, and Tehran for now rejects face-to-face talks, both nations and the EU described the talks in positive terms.
European intermediaries have started shuttling between Iranian and US officials in Vienna as they seek to bring them back into compliance with the accord, which lifted sanctions on Iran in return for curbs to its nuclear program.
Former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, prompting Iran to steadily overstep the accord’s limits on its nuclear program designed to make it more difficult to develop an atomic bomb — an ambition that Tehran denies having.
Tuesday’s talks included a meeting of the remaining parties to the original deal: Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK in a group called the Joint Commission that is chaired by the EU.
The US did not attend.
“Constructive Joint Commission meeting. There’s unity and ambition for a joint diplomatic process with two expert groups on nuclear implementation and sanctions lifting,” EU diplomat Enrique Mora wrote on Twitter.
A source familiar with the matter said that diplomats briefed the US delegation after their talks with Iran and the wider group.
The two expert-level groups have been given the task of marrying lists of sanctions that the US could lift with nuclear obligations Iran should meet, and reporting back tomorrow, when the Joint Commission is to meet again.
“The talks in Vienna were constructive,” Iranian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi told Iranian state television.
In Washington, US Department of State spokesman Ned Price told reporters: “It is a welcome step, it is a constructive step, it is a potentially useful step,” even as he repeated the US expectation that the indirect talks would be “difficult.”
A resolution of the nuclear issue could help ease tensions in the Middle East, notably between Iran and Israel, as well as between Tehran and US Sunni Arab allies, such as Saudi Arabia, who fear the possibility of Shiite Iran getting nuclear arms.
In a possible sign of such strains, an Iranian cargo ship came under attack in the Red Sea, al-Arabiya TV reported, citing unnamed sources, and news agency Tasnim said that the vessel was targeted by a limpet mine.
Al-Arabiya cited its sources as saying that the ship was attacked off Eritrea and was affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, but gave no evidence to support the assertion.
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