US says Iran negotiations are 'positive'
State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters Tuesday that indirect talks through intermediaries in Vienna are ongoing but a full return to the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) remains a long way off.
“I would just say generally that the talks have continued in Vienna, as we know. The United States and Iran, we have, together, a stated, common objective of returning to mutual compliance with the JCPOA. We have been engaged constructively in a diplomatic process to achieve that goal. I think it continues to be fair to say that the talks have been business-like, they have been positive,” Price said.
“Yes, there has been some progress, but there remains a long road ahead. I think it’s fair to say that we have more road ahead of us than we do in the rearview mirror.”
Still, Price’s comments indicate that talks remain ongoing after concerns that they could be derailed by a sabotage attack on Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz.
Iran blamed Israel for the attack, which damaged the site’s centrifuges and set production back months, and followed up by ramping up its uranium enrichment beyond 60 percent, closer to the 90 percent needed for a nuclear weapon.
Price recognized that no breakthrough has been made on a path to compliance for either side. Then-President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal in 2018, and Washington and Tehran remain at loggerheads over how to return to the pact.
Washington maintains that Iran must return its uranium enrichment to the limits the deal set out, but Tehran maintains that sanctions that it was slapped with after then-President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal must first be lifted for any changes to its nuclear program to be made.
“We have shared ideas among the delegations present. It’s fair to say that there have been no breakthroughs, but we have always said that this process, even if it were going quite well, would not be easy or quick. And of course that remains true,” said Price.
“Iran must come back into compliance. The name of the game…was compliance for compliance. That remains where we are today. What we have always said, though, is that we’re not going to offer unilateral gestures or unilateral concessions. Our goal is to have Iran back into compliance.”