US engaged in indirect diplomacy with Iran, says White House adviser

The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States and Iran have begun indirect diplomacy with Europeans and others conveying messages about how they might resume compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday (March 12).

"Diplomacy with Iran is ongoing, just not in a direct fashion at the moment," he told reporters.

"There are communications through the Europeans and through others that enable us to explain to the Iranians what our position is with respect to the compliance for compliance approach and to hear what their position is," Sullivan added.

The new administration of US President Joe Biden has rejected giving Teheran unilateral incentives to begin talks but has held out the possibility of both sides taking reciprocal steps to resume implementing the deal, an approach Washington calls "compliance for compliance."

"We are waiting at this point to hear further from the Iranians how they would like to proceed," Sullivan said.

"This is not going to be easy but we believe that we are in a diplomatic process now that we can move forward on and ultimately secure our objective, which is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and to do so through diplomacy."

The United States on Feb 18 said it was ready to talk to Iran about both nations resuming compliance with the pact that aimed to prevent Teheran from acquiring nuclear weapons, seeking to revive a deal that Washington itself abandoned in 2018.

Iran began violating the deal in 2019, about a year after former US President Donald Trump withdrew from it and reimposed economic sanctions. Teheran has accelerated its breaches in recent months.

Each side has insisted the other go first in returning to the deal, with Teheran demanding Washington remove its economic sanctions and the United States demanding that Iran reinstate limitations on its nuclear programme.