Tehran says no to "unnecessary" Iran-US meeting on 2015 JCPOA deal as Washington shows keenness to sit down directly with its arch-rival.

Members of 2015 Iran nuclear deal pose for a group picture on July 14, 2015.
Members of 2015 Iran nuclear deal pose for a group picture on July 14, 2015. (AP)

The United States has confirmed it will take part in a meeting in Vienna next week on the Iran nuclear deal and offered to sit down directly there with Tehran, which has rejected any direct meeting with Washington.

"These remain early days, and we don't anticipate an immediate breakthrough as there will be difficult discussions ahead. But we believe this is a healthy step forward," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Friday. 

The US remarks came after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the meeting will take place on Tuesday and insisted the aim was to "rapidly finalise sanction-lifting & nuclear measures for choreographed removal of all sanctions, followed by Iran ceasing remedial measures."

"No Iran-US meeting. Unnecessary," he wrote on Twitter.

US back on board? 

World powers and Iran agreed to meet to discuss nuclear deal, with mediators to hold "separate contacts" with the US, the EU said.

Participants will meet in the Austrian capital "to clearly identify sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures, including through convening meetings of the relevant expert groups," a statement said.

"The coordinator will also intensify separate contacts in Vienna with all JCPOA participants and the United States," the European Union said on Friday, referring to the deal by its initials.

The announcement came after a video conference of signatories to the 2015 accord, as they look to bring Washington back on board following former leader Donald Trump's decision to withdraw.

READ MORE: The longer the US drags its feet on Iran, the tougher talks will get

Main bone of contention

New US President Joe Biden has promised to rejoin the agreement on condition Iran first returns to respecting the commitments abandoned in retaliation for Trump pulling out.

But Tehran says Washington has to lift international sanctions that were reimposed by Trump before it will make any moves to get back in line, and is refusing to hold direct negotiations with the US.

"The United States will not attend any meeting in which Iran is present, including the meeting of the joint commission (of the nuclear accord), and that is certain," Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying by the website.

"It is their business, whether other parties to the (nuclear accord) seek to consult bilaterally or multilaterally with the United States ... whether in Vienna or elsewhere," Araqchi added. 

"The Iranian delegation will not have any talks with the US delegation at any level."

READ MORE: Iran, world powers, to hold virtual meeting to discuss nuclear deal

Iran builds new capacities 

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. 

Tehran’s moves have been calculated to put pressure on the other nations in the deal – Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain – to do more to offset crippling sanctions reimposed under Trump.

Iran has said that before it resumes compliance with the deal, the US needs to return to its own obligations under the deal by dropping the sanctions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said that over the past two years, Iran has accumulated a lot of nuclear material and new capacities, and used the time for “honing their skills in these areas.”

The ultimate goal of the deal is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, something it insists it doesn’t want to do. Iran now has enough enriched uranium to make a bomb, but nowhere near the amount it had before the nuclear deal was signed.

IAEA restricted 

As part of its ongoing violations of the JCPOA, Iran last month began restricting IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities. Under a last-minute deal worked out during a trip to Tehran, however, some access was preserved.

Under that temporary agreement, Iran will no longer share surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities with the IAEA, but it has promised to preserve the tapes for three months. 

It will then hand them over to the Vienna-based UN atomic watchdog if it is granted sanctions relief. Otherwise, Iran has vowed to erase the tapes, narrowing the window for a diplomatic breakthrough.

READ MORE: IAEA: Iran enriching uranium up to 20 percent

Source: TRTWorld and agencies