Addis Ababa, January 25, 2022(Walta) – Iran for the first time Monday said it was open to direct nuclear negotiations with the United States, which declared itself ready to hold talks “urgently” – in a possible turning point in efforts to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord.
Tehran has been engaged since last year in talks with the five other world powers still part of the agreement, which offered sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
After unilaterally withdrawing in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, Washington has been taking part indirectly in the Vienna negotiations, which seek to bring the United States back into the nuclear accord and ensure Iran returns to its commitments.
But Washington has said on multiple occasions it would prefer to hold direct talks, and on Monday Iran’s foreign minister said his country would consider doing so if it proved the key to a “good agreement” to salvage the deal.
“If during the negotiation process we get to a point that reaching a good agreement with solid guarantees requires a level of talks with the U.S., we will not ignore that in our work schedule,” said Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson reiterated after the Iranian comments that the United States is “prepared to meet directly.”
“We have long held the position that it would be more productive to engage with Iran directly, on both JCPOA negotiations and other issues,” the spokesperson said, referring to the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Iran is currently negotiating directly with the deal’s other signatories: Germany, France, China, and Britain. The talks, which started last April, were suspended two months later as Iran elected President Ebrahim Raisi, resuming in late November.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on major issues including the nuclear policy, said earlier this month that negotiating with the ‘enemy’ does not mean surrendering.
“The bullying of the enemy should not be tolerated,” he said, referring to the U.S.
But “negotiating with the enemy some time, for example, is another thing – us interacting with them is another thing,” Khamenei added in a televised speech, according to CGTN.