Tehran is ready to engage in direct talks with Washington if talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal reach an advanced stage requiring such dialogue, the Iranian foreign minister said.
Hossein Amirabdollahian’s remarks came Monday as US officials called for direct negotiations to reinstate the 2015 agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“Reports that Iran and the United States are negotiating directly with each other are false,” Amirabdollahian told a news conference in the Iranian capital, Tehran.
“However, if we get to a stage where reaching a good deal with strong safeguards requires direct talks with the United States, we will consider it.”
Iran had previously ruled out direct meetings with the United States. Instead, the two sides negotiated indirectly in Vienna to revive the deal, which saw Iran slash its nuclear program in return for lifting international sanctions on its economy.
Later Monday, US President Joe Biden’s administration reiterated its call for direct talks.
“Meeting directly would allow for more effective communication, which is urgently needed to quickly reach agreement on a mutual return to JCPOA compliance,” a State Department spokesperson told the agency. AFP press.
Last month, Robert Malley, the US special envoy for Iran, told Al Jazeera that US diplomats were ready to meet their Iranian counterparts “anytime, anywhere”.
“We’re ready to meet them face to face,” Malley said. “We believe this is far superior to indirect negotiations. And we are dealing with something so complex, with so much mistrust, with so much potential for misunderstanding.
Former US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the deal in 2018 and launched a ‘maximum pressure’ campaign of sanctions against Tehran, which responded by advancing its nuclear program well beyond the limits set by the JCPOA. .
Biden has pledged to reinstate the deal, but several rounds of talks in the Austrian capital have so far failed to return to the deal.
The US administration says preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is one of its foreign policy priorities, but Tehran has denied it is seeking nuclear weapons.
Asked if continuing indirect talks in Vienna could revive the JCPOA, Biden told reporters last week, “It’s not time to give up.”
“There is progress being made. The P5+1 is on the same page. But that remains to be seen,” Biden said, referring to the deal’s first signatories: the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and the United Nations. France – plus Germany.
Malley said on Sunday that while US diplomats were working to restore the nuclear deal, they were also pushing for the release of four American citizens imprisoned in Iran whom the United States considers hostages.
“I will say it’s very hard for us to imagine going back into the nuclear deal when four innocent Americans are being held hostage by Iran,” Malley told Reuters news agency.
Tehran on Monday refused to link nuclear talks with the release of prisoners.
“Iran has never agreed to any preconditions… The US official’s comments on the release of American prisoners in Iran are for domestic use,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.
US officials stressed that there was little time to save the JCPOA, as Iran acquired irreversible nuclear expertise.
“If an agreement is not reached within the next few weeks, Iran’s continued nuclear progress will make a return to the JCPOA impossible,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week. “But at this time, there is still a window, brief, to conclude these talks and address the remaining concerns of all parties.”