U.S. ‘prepared to meet directly’ with Iran as Tehran doesn’t rule out the option

January 25, 2022 - 21:59

TEHRAN - The United States is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program, the State Department reaffirmed Monday, after Tehran said it would consider such an option.

"We are prepared to meet directly," a State Department spokesperson said, according to France 24.

"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 between Iran and major powers.

The spokesperson said that meeting directly would allow "more efficient communication" needed to reach an understanding on what is needed to resuscitate the 2015 deal.

"Given the pace of Iran's nuclear advances, we are almost out of time to reach an understanding on mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA," the official said.

The comments came after Iran said on Monday it will consider direct talks with the United States during ongoing negotiations in Vienna aimed at restoring the deal.

"Iran is not currently talking with the U.S. directly," Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in televised remarks.

"But, 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," he added.

"Our direct talks are with P4+1," he said, referring to Germany and permanent Security Council powers France, China, Britain and Russia.

"And our indirect negotiations with the U.S. currently are... via (EU diplomat Enrique) Mora and one or two other countries present at the Vienna talks," he added.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, also said on Tuesday that way of interaction with the Americans will change only if “a good agreement” is within reach. 

“So far contacts with the American team present in Vienna have been through unofficial letter and there has been no and there will be no need for something more than this.

This way of contact will be replaced with other ways only when a good agreement is within reach,” Shamkhani tweeted.  

Iran had previously stated that the U.S. must "change course" and return to the nuclear deal, prior to any direct talks between the two arch-foes in Vienna.

The negotiations, which seek to bring Washington back to the accord and ensure Iran returns to its commitments under the deal, started in April, and resumed in late November, after they were suspended in June as Iran elected President Ebrahim Raisi.

U.S.-Iran relations have been severed since April 1980, just months after the fall of the shah and the occupation of the American embassy by students.

They worsened significantly after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal and imposed sanctions on Tehran.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei 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.

Prisoners' release 'possible'

Some analysts had interpreted these remarks as a tacit signal for possible direct talks with the U.S., as was the case in the buildup to the 2015 nuclear accord.

Earlier on Monday, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said it was "possible" to reach an agreement on both the release of Iranian and U.S. prisoners and the nuclear deal.

"They are two different paths, but if the other party (the U.S.) has the determination, there is the possibility that we reach a reliable and lasting agreement in both of them in the shortest time," spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters.

Khatibzadeh's comments came in reaction to remarks made by the U.S. envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, who on Sunday said it was unlikely that Washington would strike an agreement unless Tehran releases four U.S. citizens.

The four US citizens are held in Iran. Washington also holds four Iranian nationals. The two countries have released each other’s' citizens in the past.

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