State Department says expectations on Iran negotiations will not ‘outpace where we are’
The State Department on Thursday sought to downplay expectations over indirect negotiations for the U.S. and Iran to rejoin the Obama-era nuclear deal that former President Trump pulled out of in 2018.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a news briefing that the indirect talks have focused on “the nuclear steps that Iran would need to take in order to affect its return to compliance” with the deal and “the sanctions relief steps that we would need to take in order to return to compliance as well.”
“These talks have been described as constructive, as businesslike, as accomplishing what they set out to do. And that is true. We would characterize it that way as well. We would also, however, hasten to not allow expectations to outpace where we are. After all, we have said this will be hard,” he told reporters.
Price added that the negotiations are “very technical,” referencing the loggerheads Washington and Tehran have come to.
Iran began enriching uranium beyond the deal’s limits after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the pact. Tehran has insisted it will not return to compliance with the arrangement unless sanctions are lifted.
The U.S., meanwhile, maintains that uranium enrichment must drop for any penalties to be removed.
Price’s comments come as signatories to the 2015 deal meet in Vienna to try to move negotiations forward, with the U.S. dealing with European intermediaries to negotiate with Iran.
Price said the talks are not focusing on the contours of a final agreement but are working to hammer out the steps needed to get both sides to return to compliance.
“We need not have broad strategic talks at this stage. We are engaged in technical talks about how we might get to that endpoint. And it will be hard of course because there is no insignificant degree of distrust between the United States and Iran, between the United States and the broader international community. Now, we’re not going to let any of that be insurmountable and potentially stand in the way,” he said.
“Maximalist demands are probably not going to get us very far,” he added when pressed on the lessons the U.S. taking from the stalemate with Iran.