Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has said there were no direct bilateral talks with the United States during the Vienna nuclear negotiations.
Jake Sullivan, the United States national security advisor, told reporters in Washington Friday that the US had “communicated…directly to Iran.” He did not explain whether this was by letter, email or face-to-face meeting.
“I’m not going to say more publicly about what those precise messages are because I believe that Iran understands them,” Sullivan explained, saying that he did not want to "negotiate publicly" with Tehran.
Khatibzadeh reiterated Monday Iran’s position that the Vienna talks were between the remaining members of the 2015 nuclear deal – China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, and the United Kingdom – with the US, which left the JCPOA in 2018, taking part indirectly.
"Certain messages [from the US] were conveyed via Enrique Mora [the senior European Union official chairing the Vienna talks] in written and verbal form since the beginning of the talks in Vienna regarding the subject of the negotiations, nothing more than that, and they were immediately responded to," Khatibzadeh said.
Asked if Iran intended to increase its uranium enrichment from 60 to percent 90 precent if the Vienna talks failed to revive the JCPOA, the spokesman said Iran had “always adhered to its obligations under safeguards and the NPT,” a reference to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, which commits signatories to civil use of nuclear technology and accepting monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The spokesman noted that following legislation in December 2020, passed after the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist widely attributed to Israel, Iran stopped implementing the NPT's Additional Protocol, which gave additional access to the IAEA and was required under the JCPOA.
"The level, amount and quality of enrichment is in line with the needs of Iran's peaceful nuclear program, and the agency was aware of what Iran has done so far," Khatibzadeh said.
Others have pointed out that Iran’s 60-percent uranium enrichment has no civilian use and can only have significance as a stepping-stone to full 90-percent enrichment needed for a bomb.
No political implications
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russian ambassador to the IAEA, last week suggested that a lack of direct contact between the US and Iran hampered the talks. The JCPOA was itself preceded by extensive contacts between the administration of President Barak Obama and Iranian officials, initially well away from media spotlight.
Ulyanov on December 15 tweeted a photo of US, Russian and Chinese diplomats at a meeting. "As you can see, Russians sit together with Americans. But it has no political implications," he noted.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has banned direct talks with the United States and when Tehran returned to the talks in Vienna on November 29, Khatibzadeh stressed that there would be no direct talks with the American team in the talks.
In an interview with Ensaf News website published Monday, foreign policy analyst Reza Nasri criticized Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei over Iran not agreeing to involve the US directly in Vienna. Nasri argued that Iran dealt directly with Saudi Arabia. "Are we only to talk to countries that are friends and ethical?" he asked.
Referring to Ulyanov's tweet, Nasri claimed the Russian envoy was suggesting the three countries had "negotiated about Iran's fate while Iran held on to its political restrictions instead of getting directly involved in the process."