World powers will resume talks on the Iran nuclear deal in Vienna next week after initial online discussions on a possible US return to the pact took place on Friday.
The online talks came as US President Joe Biden’s administration tries to engage Tehran in negotiations over both sides resuming compliance with the deal.
Russia was the first to respond, saying talks were “on the right track” after Moscow’s delegate to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency joined the summit with representatives from the EU, Britain, France, Germany, China and Iran.
“Discussions were quite business-like and will continue,” said Russian ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov.
“The impression is that we are on the right track but the way ahead will not be easy and will require intensive efforts. The stakeholders seem to be ready for that.”
Tehran’s foreign ministry described the talks as “frank and serious”, according to Iran’s Isna news agency, and said an in-person meeting would take place in the Austrian capital on Tuesday.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi was quoted as telling the meeting that Tehran will stop breaching the pact’s nuclear restrictions as soon as US sanctions are lifted.
Under the 2015 agreement, economic sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme.
Mr Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed US sanctions. Iran breached some of the pact’s nuclear restrictions in retaliation.
The US and Iran have yet to agree on meeting to try to revive the deal and are communicating through European nations, officials said.
Friday’s talks were chaired by EU official Enrique Mora, political director of the bloc’s External Action Service.
Brussels said that delegates would “discuss the prospect of a possible return of the US to the [deal] and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement by all sides”.
Diplomatic sources said Britain, France and Germany held talks with Iran on Monday and one said there had been talks about a proposal from Tehran.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Washington welcomed the meeting as “a positive step”.
“We have been clear for weeks now that we are ready to pursue a return to compliance with our [deal] commitments, consistent with Iran also doing the same,” Mr Price said.
He said Washington was willing to achieve that “through a series of initial mutual steps”.
France’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said European powers were working closely with Russia and China to find a solution to the deadlock.
“These exchanges are more than necessary because Iran has not accepted taking part in direct contacts between the other participants and the United States … which would have eased discussions,” she said.
Ms von der Muhll said they were looking at alternative formats to enable talks.