World powers, Iran, U.S. launch indirect talks to revive nuclear deal

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European intermediaries began shuttling between Iranian and U.S. officials in Vienna on Tuesday as they sought to bring both countries back into full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal that Washington abandoned three years ago.

Iran has steadily overstepped the accord’s limits on its nuclear programme in response to the United States’ withdrawal from the accord under then-President Donald Trump in 2018 and its reimposition of sanctions that have crippled the Islamic Republic’s economy.

While Tehran has repeatedly rebuffed “direct and indirect negotiations” with its old foe, Washington said on Monday it expected the discussions to be difficult. Neither side expected any early breakthrough.

Even without face-to-face talks, however, the presence of both Iran and the United States in the same location marks a step forward.

“We are confident that we are on the right track, and if America’s will, seriousness and honesty is proven, it could be a good sign for a better future for this agreement,” Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters.

The remaining parties to the deal briefly met at a Viennese hotel for preparatory talks in the Austrian capital, where the pact was originally reached in 2015.

Russia’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mikhail Ulyanov, said after the meeting that the parties had tasked two expert-level groups on sanctions-lifting and nuclear issues to identify concrete measures to move forward.

The experts were set to begin technical work later on Tuesday with the aim of marrying lists of sanctions that the United States could lift with nuclear obligations Iran should meet.

“The restoration of #JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear deal) will not happen immediately. It will take some time. How long? Nobody knows. The most important thing after today’s meeting of the Joint Commission is that practical work towards achieving this goal has started,” Ulyanov tweeted.❐

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