US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley will lead US participation in the next round of Iran nuclear talks, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Wednesday, shortly after an Iranian diplomat announced the long-delayed negotiations will restart November 29 in Vienna.
Price said negotiations about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action should pick up exactly where they left off and expressed optimism that outstanding issues could be resolved swiftly.
“We’ve said this many times before, but we believe it remains possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA by closing the relatively small number of issues that remained outstanding at the end of June when the sixth round concluded,” Price said.
He warned, however, that the US feels time is running short to reach an agreement.
“We believe that if the Iranians are serious, we can manage to do that in relatively short order, but we’ve also been clear, including as this pause has dragged on for some time, that this window of opportunity will not be open forever, and that, especially if Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps,” Price said.
An Iranian diplomat announced on Twitter that the talks would resume in the Austrian capital after a months-long hiatus, during which Iran elected a new President and then assembled a new negotiating team to participate in discussions to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
The US announced its withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018. Roughly a year later, Iran began steadily violating the terms of the agreement. Talks to bring both parties back into compliance with the pact began this year, with the US and Iran communicating only indirectly through European Union partners.
The European Union confirmed in a statement Wednesday that talks will resume and “will be attended by representatives of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and Iran.”
“Participants will continue the discussions on the prospect of a possible return of the United States to the JCPOA and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement by all sides,” the EU said in a statement.
Asked about the Iranian diplomat’s announcement during the State Department briefing, Price said it appeared to have just taken place and added that, “we do welcome the EU’s announcement that they have coordinated with all participants and that talks on a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA will resume for a seventh round on Monday, November 29th.”
Price also said that the seventh round of talks over the Iran nuclear deal “should start precisely where the sixth round of talks left off.”
“We have been unambiguous when it comes to our position that there was tremendous progress achieved in rounds one through six of these talks in Vienna,” he said during a press briefing Wednesday. “It would be neither productive nor wise to take up from any other position from where we left off in June at the conclusion of the sixth round.”
Referring to International Atomic Energy Agency concerns about Iran’s recent nuclear developments, Price said that, “together with the IAEA, we’ve expressed our concern about a number of those steps in recent days and recent weeks, so we certainly hope that when the Iranian delegation returns to Vienna later this month, they do so ready to negotiate, they do so ready to negotiate quickly and in good faith as well,” he said.
Last week, the Iranian government said it would return to the negotiating table before the end of November, and over weekend, the leaders of the US, Germany, France and United Kingdom met on the sidelines of the G20 in Rome to discuss options for moving forward on the matter.
The last round of talks in Vienna — aimed at bringing the United States back into the nuclear deal and getting Iran back into compliance with the agreement — took place in June.
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