U.S., Iran agree to indirect talks for possible return to 2015 nuclear deal

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April 2 (UPI) — The United States and Iran have agreed to negotiate through intermediaries in Austria next week to discuss a potential U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal, the agreement’s existing parties said Friday.

There will be no direct talks between the two counties during the new negotiations, which will take place in Vienna. The talks will begin on Tuesday and will be the first serious step toward rejoining the pact since U.S. President Joe Biden took office.

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Iran, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and the European Union — all the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal — met Friday to discuss how the U.S. could rejoin the agreement.

The European Union presided over the virtual meeting. In February, Iran said the European Union could play a mediating role in the dispute with the United States over the Obama-era deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — which limits Tehran’s nuclear activity to the laboratory in exchange for sanctions relief.

Once Iran and other participants in the deal work out a general proposal, Iran and the United States would then meet to finalize the details.

Former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018, calling it a “bad deal.” Last year, he reimposed economic sanctions on Iran that had been lifted as part of the agreement, while also adding a thousand new measures.

Since the U.S. withdrawal, all the other parties to the deal have expressed interest in saving the agreement.

After the U.S. withdrawal, Iran began enriching uranium to levels that were restricted under the deal and Tehran has signaled that it won’t return to compliance until the United States does.

Biden campaigned last year on a promise to rejoin the nuclear deal, saying that it had successfully limited Iran’s ability to produce a weapon. His administration now estimates that the amount of time needed for Iran to produce one nuclear device has been reduced from more than a year to only a few months.

Iran has shown interest in additional U.S. talks regarding the deal, but both countries had insisted the other take the first steps in negotiations. Biden’s administration previously said sanctions would be lifted if Iran returned to compliance with uranium limits and inspections — but Tehran said it would only return once the sanctions are removed.

Earlier this year, Iran said the United States is running out of time to rejoin the pact and President Hassan Rouhani this week criticized Biden’s lack of action on the matter.