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The United States and Iran begin indirectly

“It will not be easy, but we are past the procedural block,” he said in a call with reporters ahead of the meetings.

The Trump administration withdrew in 2018 from the deal, designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program and impose hundreds of sanctions and restrictions that are expected to complicate U.S. efforts to return to compliance. Iran complained that it could not reap the economic benefits of the agreement, but has gradually breached its obligations, in particular by increasing uranium enrichment levels and limiting inspections.

The dwindling outbreak before Iran is expected to be able to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, along with approaching elections in Iran that may herald a tougher government less prone to diplomacy, has accelerated efforts to get the deal back on track.

The negotiations are an important goal for Biden, who fought for a promise to return to the 201

5 agreement. But the timing and structure of the meetings represent a disappointment to those hoping for a quick and muscular US engagement with Iran.

After approaching three months in office, Biden has made no bold gesture to join the deal, and the United States and Iran remain publicly at odds. He rarely mentions the deal unless asked directly about it. The back-burner approach contrasts with Biden’s rapid pace in offering legislation and initiatives to tackle domestic priorities, including blunting the coronavirus pandemic and its economic downturn.

The bid’s advisers also seem divided over whether resuming the deal is the best way to curb Iran’s nuclear program, especially as some of its provisions expire soon. Biden has said he wants to take advantage of the existing agreement to get a broader and stronger agreement, but Foreign Minister Antony Blinken and others have not ruled out other options.

Iran has pushed back on proposals for renegotiation or expansion, insisting that Washington instead return to the agreement it signed.

Speaking to journalists in Tehran on Tuesday, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Iran was “not optimistic or pessimistic” about the outcome of the talks. “But we are convinced we are on the right track,” he said. “And if it proves America’s will, seriousness and honesty, it could be a good sign of a better future for this agreement and ultimately its full implementation.”

The United States added, “finally admits that maximum pressure has failed and that there is no other way but to return to all sides to their commitments.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called for patience when asked if Biden is disappointed that negotiations have not come faster and are not face to face.

“Diplomacy can take time, and sometimes it is not at the pace that everyone prefers,” she said on Monday. “And we certainly have experience, just like him – from being in the Obama-Biden administration – of the time it took to work through a diplomatic process.”

Psaki would not predict how long the negotiations would run or whether they could be concluded before the elections in Iran in June that could change the landscape of Iranian participation. The bid’s special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, will lead the US delegation.

The Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) reported that Tehran’s delegation is led by Abbas Araghchi, the country’s deputy foreign minister, and includes representatives of Iran’s central bank, the oil ministry and the Atomic Energy Organization in Iran. Amid “intensive consultations” with other delegations, Araghchi met with Chinese representatives on Monday and with Russian and European negotiators early Tuesday, the news agency said.

The indirect structure with the European powers acting as intermediaries, “is, in our view, still a step forward towards diplomacy, and it remains our first goal,” Psaki said.

The bite has not shot out of a harsh public line that Iran must stop nuclear activities that violate the agreement before the United States would drop sanctions that Trump reintroduced. Iran has insisted that Washington be the first to move and drop its sanctions.

The agenda of the meetings is “removal of all US cruel sanctions,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said at his weekly news briefing on Monday, according to Iranian Press TV. “The road is clear,” he said, adding that only then would Iran return to its commitments.

But European diplomats say they will negotiate a list of movements for each side in parallel to overcome the arguments about which side acts first. The plan is for Tehran and Washington to then implement the steps of coordination.

“We certainly expect that the primary issues that will be discussed in the coming days are the nuclear steps that Iran would have to take in order to return to compliance with the conditions in [nuclear deal] and the sanction relief steps that the United States would have to take to also return to compliance, ”Psaki said.

Sometimes overlapping layers of economic sanctions introduced during the Trump administration’s shift to a “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran make the task particularly complex in the future.

“Both Trump officials and the regime change lobby here in Washington were and still are very explicit that the purpose was to make it as difficult as possible for a successor administration to remove sanctions – to make it difficult both bureaucratically and politically,” said Countryman, the former Obama administration official.

State Department spokesman Ned Price also lowered expectations for a quick breakthrough.

“We do not underestimate the extent of the challenges ahead. These are early days. We do not expect an early or immediate breakthrough, as these discussions, which we fully expect, will be difficult. But we believe that these discussions with our partners and, in turn, our partners with Iran are a healthy step forward. ”

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