Iran: Biden remarks a ‘step forward,’ but no shift on direct talks

Iran on Sunday welcomed Vice President Biden’s recent remarks that the U.S. was willing to hold direct talks with Iran, but would not commit to the offer.

Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Biden’s comments were a “step forward,” but said Washington needed to demonstrate its readiness to negotiate in good faith, according to a report from the Associated Press. 

“On the other side you use this threatening rhetoric that everything is on the table ... these are not compatible with each other,” Salehi said.

"We are ready for engagement only when it is on equal footing," he added.

Salehi is in Munich for a security conference, where Biden spoke on Saturday. 

Biden said that the U.S. was willing to sit down with Iran for bilateral discussions.

"The ball is in the government of Iran's court, and it's well past time for Tehran to adopt a serious, good-faith approach to negotiations,” the vice president said in his remarks.

The U.S. and western partners are pushing Iran to abandon its nuclear development, amid fears Tehran is seeking weapons capability. Iran, however, insists its program is for peaceful energy purposes.

On Sunday, Iran said it would resume nuclear talks later this month with the P5 +1, a group consisting of the five UN Security Council members and Germany. But those talks have made little progress on convincing Iran to halt its nuclear development.

Republican lawmakers have pressed the Obama administration to take a more forceful tack against Iran, but the White House says that mounting economic sanctions need more time to work. The president has also added that all options are on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. 

White House policy on Iran has also been a focus of the confirmation hearings for former Sen. Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelOvernight Defense: Latest on historic Korea summit | Trump says 'many people' interested in VA job | Pompeo thinks Trump likely to leave Iran deal Should Mike Pompeo be confirmed? Intel chief: Federal debt poses 'dire threat' to national security MORE (R-Neb.), Obama’s pick to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. GOP lawmakers have questioned Hagel’s past statements on Iran. 

Hagel during his hearings said that he was committed to preparing the military for “all options” to counter aggression from Iran and backs multilateral sanctions against Tehran.