Diplomats optimistic about reviving Iran deal after round of indirect talks

Iran confirmed in January it was enriching uranium to beyond the threshold set by the 2015 nuclear deal at its Fordow plant

Parties involved in the Iran nuclear deal have agreed to discuss the lifting of U.S. sanctions and ways to limit Tehran's nuclear program as a way to revive the accord.

The nuclear agreement is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). "The original formulation is one that still holds today: it's the limited lifting of sanctions, nuclear sanctions, in return for permanent and verifiable limits on Iran's nuclear program".

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter Friday: "No Iran-US meeting".

"This success would never have been achieved if we had not stood up to the Trump regime in spite of all external and internal pressures to leave the JCPOA, and if our people had not endured this severe suffering", the spokesman asserted. The other JCPOA-related sanctions are mostly focused on Iran's banking and oil sectors.

"The U.S. should return unconditionally to the agreement, lift all illegal sanctions and stop its long-arm jurisdiction over third parties".

"Our agenda during the meeting [in Vienna] will be removal of all US sanctions against Iran.as our supreme leader has said repeatedly, anything less than that will not be accepted by Tehran", an Iranian official told Reuters.

Iran argues that since the U.S. violated the deal first with its withdrawal, Washington should also take the first step by lifting sanctions.

The JCPOA was signed in 2015 by Iran and the P5+1, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France - plus Germany.

The deal - which the US left in 2018 under President Donald Trump - restricts Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing USA and worldwide sanctions.

After a series of bilateral meetings Tuesday morning, the JCPOA Joint Commission, responsible for overseeing the implementation of the deal, met in the afternoon at Vienna's five-star Grand Hotel on the historic Ringstrasse.

At the meeting, participants agreed to establish two expert-level groups, one on the lifting of sanctions and one on nuclear issues, which were "tasked to identify concrete measures to be taken by Washington and Tehran to restore full implementation of JCPOA", Ulyanov tweeted.

They are to start work immediately, and report their conclusions to the main negotiators.

I think [the Biden administration] are hell-bent, whether it's before the Iranian elections in May or June, or immediately afterward that they want back into this deal. Russian Federation and China, also part of the accord, are present as well. "There's unity and ambition for a joint diplomatic process with two expert groups on nuclear implementation and sanctions lifting", European Union chief coordinator Enrique Mora said on Twitter.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that Washington expects the nuclear talks to be a long process.

"We are confident that we are on the right track, and if America's will, seriousness and honesty is proven, it could be a good sign for a better future for this agreement", Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters.

"It is a potentially useful step as we seek to determine what it is that the Iranians are prepared to do to return to compliance with the stringent limitations under the 2015 deal, and as a result what we might need to do to return to compliance ourselves", Price said.

He added that Washington is open to face-to-face talks with Tehran.

Earlier in the day, Malley dismissed the Iranian demand that all sanctions be lifted before Tehran complies with the nuclear limits of the deal. Still, he defended efforts to reimplement the JCPOA in an interview with NPR on Tuesday. There are critical questions remaining, including how quickly Iran can dismantle the advanced centrifuges now spinning, how it will reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium, and what to do about its gains in research and development as it violated its terms of the deal.

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