Iran is set to resume nuclear talks with other world leaders in Vienna on Nov. 29 to revive a 2015 deal over its nuclear activity, the European Union announced on Wednesday.
The EU said that the meeting of the commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will be attended by representatives from Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
“Participants will continue the discussions on the prospect of a possible return of the United States to the JCPOA and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement by all sides,” reads the EU’s statement.
The 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also called the JCPOA, requires Iran to restrict its nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions from the United States, the EU, and the United Nations.
Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, called sanctions against the country and its leadership “unlawful & inhumane” in a Twitter post on Wednesday.
The deal was promoted by President Barack Obama in 2015 as the “best option” to keep Iran from wielding nuclear arms, even temporarily.
But the Iranian regime appeared to head in the opposite direction. In 2017, it announced a 150 percent increase in its military budget to develop long-range missiles, armed drones, and cyber-warfare capabilities. It also started to use part of its $150 billion in assets abroad that had previously been frozen by sanctions.
President Donald Trump in May 2018 withdrew the United States from the nuclear pact and reimposed sanctions on Iran, in an effort to force the country’s ruling Islamic regime to change a plethora of activities that the Trump administration said were unacceptable.
“We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction,” Trump said at the time. “America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail.”
The Trump administration demanded that the Iranian regime stop not only its nuclear technology development but also its ballistic missile program, its support for terrorists and militias in the region, and other destabilizing activities.
The United States recognizes Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism and has long criticized it for funding Islamist terror groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis.
In 2019, the Iranian regime said publicly that it was in breach of the uranium enrichment limits set out in the deal.
Iran and six powers started to discuss ways to revive the nuclear pact in April.
Six rounds of talks have been held so far. They have been indirect, with chiefly European diplomats shuttling between U.S. and Iranian officials, because Iran refuses direct contact with the United States.
Negotiations have been on hold since the June election of hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who is expected to take a tough approach when they resume talks in Vienna.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the United States hoped Tehran would return in good faith and be ready to negotiate.
“We believe it remains possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA by closing the relatively small number of issues that remained outstanding at the end of June,” he told reporters, adding, “We believe that if the Iranians are serious, we can manage to do that in relatively short order. (However) … this window of opportunity will not be open forever, especially if Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps.”
The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council earlier on Wednesday suggested that negotiations to revive the JCPOA would fail unless President Joe Biden could guarantee that the United States would not again abandon the pact.
Biden and European leaders on Oct. 30 criticized Iran over what they called “accelerated” and “provocative nuclear steps” taken by the Iranian regime as it continues to enrich uranium.
Ella Kietlinska, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.