Iran's foreign minister Tuesday stressed that Tehran and Washington are still exchanging messages through the European Union despite the halt in Vienna talks.
Negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, JCPOA, have not stopped but continue at another pace through the exchange of written messages with the Americans through the European Union representative with the aim of lifting US sanction on Iran, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told Beirut-based Yemeni Almasirah television on Tuesday.
“We urged the American side to be realistic,” Amir-Abdollahian said. “Removing sanctions in all areas and receiving economic guarantees are among the most important items on our negotiating team’s agenda,' the Iranian foreign minister said.
The US State Department Spokesman Ned Price also said Monday that that the EU coordinator of the talks, Enrique Mora, continues to convey messages back and forth between Tehran and Washington. Price, however, declined to comment on whether Tehran has accepted a reported offer by Mora to go to Tehran to break the deadlock in the talks.
"The main issue is the relations between Iran and the US, not the role that Europe can play in the talks … Europe's role is one of a go between. The go between can play a limited role and will not have an effective and decisive role in any negotiations," Nader Entesar, professor of political sciences at South Alabama University told the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) on Tuesday.
In what highlighted the Biden administration’s commitment to revive the JCPOA, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that the United States will not stand in the way of Russia-Iran nuclear cooperation if the JCPOA is restored.
Iran currently has one Russian-built nuclear power plant and a $10 billion contract with Moscow to build two further power plants in Bushehr.
Opponents of reviving the JCPOA argue that one of the problems with the Vienna talks so far is that Russia is set to benefit $10 billion while it is being sanctioned for its invasion of Ukraine.
Another issue is Tehran’s demand for its Revolutionary Guard to be removed from the US list of terrorist organization. The Iranian foreign minister made no mention of the demand, which currently appears to be the most important hurdle to signing off on a deal to but said the Americans have "perfectly understood Iran's red lines".
US State Department spokesman Ned Price reiterated on Monday that Tehran will have to make concessions on some issues if they want to put demands on the table that are outside the confines of the JCPOA. “That’s just the very nature of any negotiation,” he said in a veiled reference to the IRGC designation.
Price told reporters Monday that the Biden administration will continue dialogue with Tehran via its partners, including the European Union, to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA for as long as a mutual return to compliance would be in US interests.
"If and when we reached the point where the non-proliferation benefits of a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA would not overcome the progress that Iran has achieved in its nuclear program in the past three or so years, that’s when we’ll reassess and pursue an alternative course," he said.
US Department of Defense Spokesman John Kirby on Monday told reporters that the Pentagon backs the government's efforts to revive the JCPOA and prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. "No problem in the Middle East is easier to solve with Iran having a nuclear weapon," he said, adding that even during negotiations, Iran has continued to develop "certain nuclear capabilities", apparently a reference to Iran's enrichment of uranium to 60 percent purity which has brought it closer to 90 percent purity required for building nukes.