Iran nuclear deal talks: Top diplomats to meet in Vienna

Delegations from Washington and Tehran will be present at the talks, although direct contact is not on the table. The US has cautioned against high expectations.

The remaining signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal were set to meet on Tuesday in Vienna for the first round of talks since US President Joe Biden took office. A US delegation was also set to take part indirectly.

Diplomats from Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany will join their Iranian counterparts for consultations that aim to pave the way for Washington’s return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Tehran said before the meeting that there would be no direct contact between Iranian and US diplomats as the latter is no longer a signatory of the deal — but they will be kept up-to-date as the talks progress.

Washington warned against overly high expectations for a breakthrough during the talks, foreign secretary spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday.

US and Iran in a deadlock

The 2015 agreement to keep Iran’s uranium enrichment in check was undermined in 2018 when former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal and imposed sanctions on Iran.

In response, Tehran carried out progressive violations of the JCPOA and increased its enriched uranium reserves — a necessary component for potential nuclear weapons.

Biden has shown interest in returning to the deal, but both sides are stuck in a deadlock.

The US has demanded as a prerequisite that Iran end its uranium enrichment in violation of the deal while Iran demands the US lift the sanctions imposed by Trump first.

Cooperation or sanctions

The nuclear deal, first signed by then-President Barack Obama, is seen as an important tool to prevent Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

The plan allowed for economic cooperation between Iran and the US rather than punitive reactions to Iran taking steps towards nuclear armament.

The remaining members of the agreement made repeated attempts to keep the agreement alive in the face of US rejection.

Iran will go to the polls in June to vote for a new president. The current president Hassan Rouhani, seen as a moderate in Tehran, will not be able to stand again.

A more hardline leader could hinder further progress.

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