search

US reacts warily after Iran says nuclear talks will restart next month

White House skeptical over claim made by Iranian official that frozen negotiations will resume by the end of next month, says it will wait for EU confirmation

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki calls on reporters during the daily news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on October 27, 2021 in Washington, DC.  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki calls on reporters during the daily news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on October 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — Washington on Wednesday responded skeptically after Iran’s chief negotiator announced that Tehran was ready to return to nuclear negotiations in Vienna by the end of next month.

Ali Bagheri, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and chief negotiator for the talks, in a Twitter posting said Iran has agreed to restart negotiations by the end of November and a date for a resumption of talks “would be announced in the course of the next week.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said administration officials were aware of Bagheri’s comments but were waiting for European officials to confirm that Iran is indeed ready to resume talks.

“I would leave to the negotiators to determine when the next round of discussions will be,” Psaki said. “Our framing continues to be compliance for compliance, and we’ll leave it up to the Europeans and our negotiators to determine when the next step would be.”

The State Department also reacted cautiously after the Iranian announcement.

“We are prepared to return to Vienna, and we believe that it remains possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on return to mutual full compliance,” a State Department spokesperson said.

The talks should focus on “closing the small number of issues that remained outstanding at the end of the sixth round of talks in June,” he said.

“As we have also been clear, this window will not remain open forever as Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps, so we hope that they come to Vienna to negotiate quickly and in good faith.”

Former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal and the US has participated indirectly in the Vienna talks, which were aimed at bringing both Washington and Tehran back into compliance. The talks have been on hiatus since June when Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi took power.

TV cameras in front of the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna’ where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 20, 2021. (AP/Florian Schroetter)

Bagheri’s signaling that Iran was ready to resume talks comes after US special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, said this week there is a “deep and growing” concern in the Biden administration about Iran’s refusal to commit to a date to resume negotiations in Vienna.

“This is not a chronological clock; it’s a technological clock. At some point, the JCPOA will have been so eroded because Iran would have made advances that cannot be reversed,” Malley told reporters.

The UN’s atomic watchdog has said Iran is increasingly in violation of the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union remain part of the deal.

Psaki said the US and its partners still want a diplomatic solution, but White House officials say they are considering alternatives, although a decision will be dependent on Iran’s actions. Biden is set to travel to Rome later this week for the Group of 20 summit, where he’s expected to consult with allies about the Iran nuclear program on the margins of the summit.

“We will be sending clear messages to the Iranians … that this window is not unlimited,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday.

Last week, after Malley met with European officials in Paris, France urged Iran to curb nuclear activities of “unprecedented gravity.”

Robert Malley, US special envoy for Iran (R) and Stephan Klement, EU ambassador and European external action service special advisor on Iran, talk in front of the Hotel Imperial near the Grand Hotel Vienna where closed-door nuclear talks took place in Vienna, Austria, June 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)

Malley has also recently held a series of high-level meetings in Washington between senior Biden administration officials and the foreign ministers of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and the European Union’s diplomatic chief.

Bagheri also said on Twitter that he has engaged in “very serious and constructive dialogue” with Enrique Mora, the European Union’s deputy secretary general for political affairs, “on the essential elements for successful negotiations.”

AFP contributed to this report.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed