The United States is prepared to discuss sanctions relief with Iran based on the terms of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Iran Rules Out US Claim of "Step-by-Step" Lifting of Sanctions
Price spoke to reporters Monday in Washington DC and stated that the U.S side would not entertain unilateral gestures or concessions to induce Iran to a better place. "Our goal at these talks in Vienna is to set the stage for that mutual return to compliance. The original formulation is one that still holds today -it's the limited lifting of nuclear sanctions in return for permanent and verifiable limits on Iran's nuclear program."
Commenting on Washington's expectations at the upcoming Vienna meeting, he said the Biden administration hopes the talks will focus on "the issues involved in a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, mutual meaning on the part of Iran and on the part of the United States. That has long been the proposition on the table."
Price added that the U.S. would use the Vienna talks to get a better understanding of how to reach "compliance for compliance", but noted that Washington doesn't "anticipate an early or immediate breakthrough" and expects talks to be "difficult."
"We don't anticipate at present that there will be direct talks with Iran, though of course, we remain open to them. So we'll have to see how things go," Price added.
Tehran has rejected the prospect of direct talks with Washington on the nuclear agreement, with its leaders stressing that the Biden administration could resolve the diplomatic spat surrounding the JCPOA in a single day by lifting all sanctions against the Islamic Republic, after which the country would immediately return to its obligations under the nuclear deal.
Iran expects to use the Vienna discussions to reiterate Tehran's conditions for a return to full compliance with the nuclear pact – namely the lifting of U.S. sanctions. At the same time, the country maintains that it has no intention of building a nuclear bomb, with a fatwa (iron-clad religious ruling) by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banning the pursuit of such weapons.
The Trump administration unilaterally exited from the JCPOA in May 2018. Iran provided the deal's remaining signatories one year to come up with a way to soften the blow of crushing U.S. banking and energy sanctions, and when that failed, began withdrawing from its voluntary commitments under the nuclear deal, increasing uranium enrichment activities from 3.67 percent purity outlined in the agreement to about 20 percent by January 2021.