While Washington once again urged Iran on Thursday to return to suspended nuclear talks, Tehran demanded the removal of sanctions before it makes a decision.
The US State Department once again said an "imminent" return to indirect talks in Vienna is necessary to revive the Iran nuclear deal because the process cannot "drag out' indefinitely.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Thursday "this is not a process that can drag out or that can be dragged out. We are firmly of the belief that we need to work quickly. We need to work with alacrity and a great deal of speed to see to it."
"We have made very clear that we are prepared, willing and able to return to Vienna as soon as we have a partner to negotiate with indirectly, Price said.
While Iran has said it is ready to rejoin the talks, it has not yet offered a date for a resumption, named a negotiating team or indicated that it is willing to pick up where the negotiations left off in June, according to the officials.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian appeared to harden his country’s position while he was speaking to reporters in Beirut on Thursday. He said that US and European verbal statements about the need to resume talks are not sufficient. He stressed that if the West fulfils its commitment under the 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA), Iran will also abide by its obligations.
Amir-Abdollahian went on to say that Iran will make decisions and take actions if the United States removes sanctions and Europe acts according to its commitments under the JCPOA.
Iran has been hinting that the United States should release frozen Iranian funds before it returns to the talks. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told Iranian state television on October 2 that he refused overtures to meet with US officials while he was attending the UN General Assembly in New York in September, asking that Washington should first unfreeze $10 billion.
On Thursday, US Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, spoke with a top South Korean foreign ministry official asking Seoul’s help in efforts to revive the Vienna talks. The only help South Korea could provide is if it releases Iranian funds frozen by its banks because of US sanctions.
Price in his briefing did not confirm or deny that Malley discussed the $7 billion of frozen Iranian funds in Korea.
The State Department spokesman again mentioned recent US threats that if the Vienna talks do not resume, it has to resort to other options to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
We’re not entertaining at the moment, or at least not discussing publicly, other modalities, other alternatives because we still have a framework in the form of the JCPOA that would provide precisely what we would like to see,” Price told reporters.