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 accords limits on its nuclear programme in response to Washington s withdrawal from the accord in 2018 and its reposition 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 talks to be difficult. Neither side expected any early breakthrough.
“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 will first meet at a Viennese hotel for preparatory talks amid snowy conditions in the Austrian capital, where the pact was originally reached in 2015.
Officials from Britain, France and Germany, will act as intermediaries between Iran and the United States, shuttling between both delegations. Russia and China, the other parties to the 2015 pact, are also attending.
The U.S. delegation, headed by special envoy Rob Malley, will be based in a nearby hotel.
President Joe Biden s administration wants to revive the accord but has said this requires negotiations. Tehran has dismissed any direct engagement for now in talks with Washington about both sides resuming compliance with the deal.
Under the 2015 accord, U.S. and other economic sanctions on Tehran were removed in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme to make it harder to develop a nuclear weapon – an ambition Tehran denies.
“This is going to involve discussions about identifying the steps that the U.S. has to take and identifying the steps that Iran is going to have to take,” Malley told NPR radio on Tuesday morning. “Because they ve been increasingly in noncompliance with their nuclear commitments.”