The White House said Iran’s approach in the Vienna nuclear talks showed the regime was not committed to returning to the bargain that forced sharp limits on its nuclear fuel production in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.
“The first six rounds of negotiations made progress finding creative compromise solutions to many of the hardest issues that were difficult for all sides,” press secretary Jen Psaki said. “Iran’s approach this week was not, unfortunately, to try to resolve the remaining issues.”
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The Biden administration has said the United States is prepared to return to mutual compliance in the deal. “If Iran is equally committed, a solution is at hand,” Psaki said. “But we did not see that from them this week.”
The seventh round of talks ended in Vienna Friday, with little progress in the negotiations. Iran has accelerated its nuclear advances under the new hard-line government of President Ebrahim Raisi, growing closer to nuclear weapons capability, according to U.S. officials. Psaki said Iran had failed to provide constructive proposals while in Vienna.
“Back almost to square one” is how a senior European diplomat characterized the state of negotiations to one journalist.
Psaki also said former President Donald Trump was to blame for Iran’s nuclear advancements because of his withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the Obama-era deal is formally known.
“The previous administration decided to withdraw from the JCPOA — that’s led to a dramatic and unprecedented expansion of Iran’s nuclear program,” she said.
But for months after taking office, the Biden administration said Iran should take the first move in returning to the pact. Top aides called for a “longer and stronger” deal, one that stopped Iran from acquiring nuclear materials for decades and halted missile launches and support for terrorist groups.
Asked by the Washington Examiner in February whether a return to compliance by Iran was a precondition for returning to talks, Psaki reaffirmed that no sanctions relief or talks would begin without Iran first returning to the pact.
“Certainly [compliance] would be the first, next step in the process,” she said at the time.
Months later, Raisi took office, shifting the fate of the talks.
In recent months, top Biden officials have said Iran’s uranium enrichment and failure to engage constructively in the negotiations will force the U.S. to curtail the program through alternative measures.
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“What Iran can’t do is sustain the status quo of building their nuclear program while dragging their feet on talks,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week. “That will not happen. That’s also not our view alone.”