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Iran: no direct or indirect talks with US officials in Vienna

Heading into talks in Vienna on the JCPOA, Tehran maintains its position that Washington must remove sanctions first.
A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on July 7, 2019, shows (L to R) Iran's government spokesman Ali Rabiei and Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi speaking to each other during a joint press conference at the presidential headquarters in the capital, Tehran, on July 7, 2019. Iran will begin enriching uranium beyond a 3.67% cap set by a landmark nuclear deal "in a few hours," the Islamic Republic's Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on July 7, 2019.

Iran and the remaining members of the nuclear deal plan on meeting in Vienna this week to save the 2015 accord, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The decision to meet face to face was made after the original members minus the United States held a virtual meeting. Representatives of the United States and Iran will reportedly be in the same location, though they will not meet face to face. But it is a positive sign that all parties are interested in resolving the stand-off.

While many observers took this news as a positive step that Iran would return to full compliance with the nuclear deal and the United States would reenter the deal and remove sanctions on Iran, Iranian officials are attempting to temper expectations for this first move.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister and nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi told reporters on Sunday, “What we will pursue in Vienna at the joint commission meeting is exactly the firm position that the supreme leader and officials from the country have stated numerous times.” In his latest speech, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on state matters, said the process to get Iran back into full compliance with the terms of the JCPOA would be for the United States to remove sanctions that were reapplied after the former president, Donald Trump, exited the deal in 2018, then have the US steps verified.

Araghchi continued, “We will not have any negotiations with the US either directly or indirectly. He reiterated that the United States must return to its JCPOA commitments, remove sanctions and have those steps verified. Talks in Vienna will be “technical [and] about the sanctions that need to be removed and the actions Iran will take,” Araghchi added. After the 2018 US exit from the nuclear deal and the reapplication of sanctions, Iran took a series of steps out of full compliance with JCPOA terms on enrichment and other aspects of the nuclear program. Iran’s argument was that the text of the JCPOA permitted them to take those steps when another party violated the deal, as the United States did.

Regarding the “step by step” suggestions that have been made, Araghchi said no such thing will take place. He said the only step Iran will accept is the removal of all sanctions Trump applied after he exited the deal.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh also reiterated Iran’s position today about the “step by step” proposal ahead of the joint commission meeting. “What can help the JCPOA is that all of the sanctions that were applied under Trump and all the sanctions that were applied under various names need to be removed and verified,” Khatibzadeh said. He echoed what Araghchi said regarding negotiations with the United States, saying they will not take place either directly or indirectly.

Regarding the positive signs the Biden administration is sending by saying that it wants to get back into the deal, Khatibzadeh said Iran “is not paying attention to the positive or negative signals from Biden but is awaiting real American actions.”

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