US 'open' to direct talks with Iran at nuclear meet

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Officials from Iran, China, Russia, France, Germany and Britain will meet virtually on April 2 to discuss a possible return of the United States to the 2015 nuclear deal, the European Union said in a statement on Thursday. We will address any efforts at sanction evasion.

On the same day, an anonymous source allegedly familiar with the negotiating process, told Iran's PressTV that Tehran had stressed in a virtual meeting with other JCPOA signatories that it will not return to nuclear accord compliance unless the United States lifts all sanctions.

The group said they would resume further talks Tuesday in Vienna on the 2015 agreement, "in order to clearly identify sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures".

"We do not anticipate presently that there will be direct talks between the United States and Iran through this process, though the United States remains open to them", he said.

"What we had heard was that they were interested first in a series of initial steps, and so we were exchanging ideas on a series of initial steps", said one U.S. official quoted by Reuters.

Price said China and the United States had common interests "as we look to ways to find that mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA".

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The US blacklisted Iran's energy industry in late 2018 as it ramped up sanctions, but granted Baghdad a series of temporary waivers, hoping Iraq would wean itself off Iranian energy by partnering with US firms.

Russia's ambassador to worldwide organisations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said "the impression is that we are on the right track but the way ahead will not be easy and will require intensive efforts. The stakeholders seem to be ready for that".

Any return of the United States would involve complications.

The body that oversees the implementation of the JCPOA has been under threat since then-US president Donald Trump pulled out in 2018 and Iran began to resume nuclear activities it had scaled back.

Iran has been steadily violating the restrictions of the deal, like the amount of enriched uranium it can stockpile and the purity to which it can enrich it.

Trump trashed the deal but Biden has hoped to revive it, although he insists Iran must return to full compliance before he ends Trump's sanctions. It will then hand them over to the Vienna-based United Nations atomic watchdog if it is granted sanctions relief.

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