US expects talks to revive Iran nuclear deal to be tough

WASHINGTON • The United States expects indirect talks with Iran that began yesterday about both sides resuming compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to be "difficult" and does not foresee any early breakthrough.

US and Iranian officials began indirect talks in Vienna - with European officials expected to act as intermediaries - to try to revive the 2015 pact under which economic sanctions on Iran were eased in return for curbs on its nuclear programme to make it harder to develop a nuclear weapon.

US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley, a veteran of the Clinton and Obama administrations, will lead the US delegation in Vienna, where the pact was originally reached in 2015.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday: "We don't underestimate the scale of the challenges ahead. These are early days. We don't anticipate an early or immediate breakthrough as these discussions, we fully expect, will be difficult."

Teheran has denied seeking to develop atomic bombs, and repeatedly rebuffed "direct and indirect negotiations".

"We are not optimistic nor pessimistic about the outcome of this meeting now," Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters yesterday in Teheran. "But we are confident that we are on the right track, and if America's will, seriousness and honesty are proven, it could be a good sign for a better future for this agreement and ultimately its full implementation."

The agreement, formally named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was struck by Iran and six major powers: Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US.

US President Joe Biden's predecessor, Mr Donald Trump, withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed US sanctions, prompting Iran, after waiting more than a year, to violate some of the pact's nuclear restrictions in retaliation.

The Trump administration believed the sanctions pressure it applied would force Iran to consent to a new, more restrictive agreement that would also limit its development of ballistic missiles and its support for Shi'ite proxies in the Middle East.

The Biden administration has maintained the sanctions, saying it wants both sides to resume complying with the JCPOA but that this requires negotiations.

Meanwhile, Iran said South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-Kyun plans to visit Teheran soon to discuss billions of dollars of Iranian funds that are frozen in his country as a result of US sanctions.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2021, with the headline US expects talks to revive Iran nuclear deal to be tough. Subscribe