07:34 GMT19 April 2021
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    Washington announced last week that it would be sending negotiators to Vienna for Tuesday's meeting of the remaining signatories to the Iran nuclear deal. US diplomats aren't expected to be allowed in the room where the talks will take place, and a European diplomat told the media that a shuttle diplomacy approach will be used.

    Russia is ready to facilitate indirect contacts between Iran and the US on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's permanent representative to international organisations in Vienna, has told Sputnik.

    A meeting of the JCPOA's Joint Commission will be held in Vienna on Tuesday, with the European Union serving as coordinator of the Joint Commission.

    The EU's foreign affairs service is expected to serve as the contact point between Iran and the US, but according to Ulyanov, "this does not negate the possibility and necessity of contacts in other formats, without bothering the EU representative. We will make an effort to facilitate [discussions] depending on how events develop, where it is necessary", the diplomat said.

    Ulyanov also confirmed that no direct contacts between the Iranian and US side are planned.

    "There will be no direct contacts at all between Iran and US representatives. The Iranians, having suffered from sanctions, are not ready for direct communication, at least at this stage", he said.

    The senior diplomat reiterated that Russia, as a party to the JCPOA, is interested in the agreement's complete restoration, and is prepared to take "all the necessary steps that will facilitate reaching concrete agreements".

    Iran Rules Out Direct/Indirect Talks

    Officials in Iran have ruled out direct or indirect talks with US representatives in Vienna, saying the discussions will see the Iranian side reiterate its conditions for the Islamic Republic's return to the nuclear agreement - namely the demand that Washington lift its illegal sanctions. After verifying that sanctions have been lifted, Iran would be prepared to immediately return to its commitments, officials say.

    On Sunday, Abbas Arachchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister for political affairs, ruled out any "step-by-step" approach to resolving the nucelar dispute, saying that as far as Iran sees things, "there is only one step" - the removal of US sanctions.

    State Department spokesman Ned Price on Friday confirmed that Washington would be sending negotiators to the upcoming meeting of the signatories to the JCPOA in Vienna, and expressed America's "openness" to direct talks with Tehran on the nuclear deal.

    A European diplomatic source explained to Reuters that the American negotiators would not be allowed in the same room where the talks take place, and that an intermediary would be used to convey the two sides' positions without direct face-to-face interaction by the disputing parties.

    The Trump administration unilaterally pulled out of the JCPOA in May 2018 after heavy lobbying. Iran gave the agreement's European signatories a one year window to find a financial and trade mechanism to get around crushing US energy and banking sanctions. After the Europeans failed to do so, Tehran began gradually withdrawing from its voluntary commitments under the JCPOA, increasing uranium enrichment levels from the 3.67 percent purity mandated in the agreement to roughly 20 percent as of January 2021.

    Iran maintains that it has no intention to pursue nuclear weapons, and that its enrichment and stockpiling activities are related to its peaceful nuclear programme. The country's enrichment levels remain far below those necessary to build a nuclear bomb (weapons-grade uranium is that with a purity level of 80-90 percent). At the same time, Tehran has urged the international community to turn their attention to the active pursuit of weapons of mass destruction by Israel and the United States.

    Joe Biden sparked optimism on the campaign trail by promising to get the US back into the JCPOA. Since stepping into office, however, his administration has tied a US return to the agreement to Iran's scaling back of its uranium enrichment activities. Tehran has vehemently rejected the proposal, stressing that because it was the US side who violated the agreement in the first place, it's up to Washington to return to its commitments under the JCPOA first.


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