VIENNA (Dispatches) -- European intermediaries began shuttling between Iranian and U.S. officials in Vienna on Tuesday as they sought to bring Washington back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal that it abandoned three years ago.
Neither side expected any early breakthrough because the U.S. has taken no effective step back from the former American’s regime’s wrong approach. Tehran has repeatedly rebuffed "direct and indirect negotiations” with Washington.
Iran’s negotiator Abbas Araqchi said Tuesday the U.S. must lift its anti-Iran sanctions altogether and in one step if it truly seeks to rejoin the 2015 nuclear agreement, which it abandoned around three years ago.
"They (Americans) have left the JCPOA, and they have imposed sanctions. So obviously if they want to come back, they will have to lift all those sanctions, all together, in one step,” he told Press TV.
The remaining parties to the deal briefly met at a Viennese hotel for preparatory talks in the Austrian capital, where the pact was originally reached in 2015.
Russia’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mikhail Ulyanov, said after the meeting that the parties had tasked two expert-level groups on sanctions-lifting and nuclear issues to identify concrete measures to move forward.
The experts were set to begin technical work later on Tuesday with the aim of discussing lists of sanctions that the United States should lift.
"The restoration of #JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear deal) will not happen immediately. It will take some time. How long? Nobody knows. The most important thing after today’s meeting of the Joint Commission is that practical work towards achieving this goal has started,” Ulyanov tweeted.
Reuters said officials from Britain, France and Germany will act as intermediaries between Iran and the United States. Russia and China, also part of the accord, are present as well.
The U.S. delegation, headed by special envoy Rob Malley and sanctions expert Richard Nephew, is reportedly based in a nearby hotel.
Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said the talks held so far have been focused on how the parties "could make sure that the U.S. will get back to full compliance and effectively remove all imposed, reimposed or re-labeled sanctions after it ceased its participation in the JCPOA”.
The Europeans are trying to resurrect the 2015 nuclear deal, which the administration of former U.S. president Donald Trump almost wrecked after abandoning it in May 2018 and imposing the "toughest ever” anti-Iran sanctions.
After the withdrawal, Iran waited for a year for the Europeans to take remedial measures and thwart the unilateral American sanctions as per their obligations under the JCPOA, but to no avail.
That prompted the Islamic Republic to suspend some of its obligations in line with its legal rights stipulated under Article 36 of the JCPOA.
The new U.S. administration, under President Joe Biden, has spoken of a willingness to return to the nuclear agreement, but in practice, it has been sticking to Trump’s "maximum pressure” campaign.
Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s envoy to the United Nations and a former nuclear negotiator, put the onus on Washington.
"The U.S. has so far failed to
honor @POTUS campaign promise to rejoin the JCPOA. So this opportunity shouldn’t be wasted,” he said on Twitter. "If U.S. lifts all sanctions, Iran will then cease all remedial measures.”
Diplomats said the talks could continue for several days to resolve some of the less contentious issues before resuming in several rounds over the coming weeks.
The objective is some form of an accord ahead of June’s Iranian presidential election, Reuters said, citing an EU official.
The Biden administration has said it wants to build a "longer and stronger agreement” that would deal with other issues, including Iran’s long-term nuclear program, its development of ballistic missiles, and its support for resistance movements across the Middle East.
Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, dismissed that option on Twitter.
"Regardless of whether Europe has the will or ability to persuade #USA to lift all sanctions at once & Washington’s return to its commitments, there will be no possibility for Iran entering talks in the new fields, more than JCPOA, under any circumstances.”