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Indirect talks with Iran over nuclear deal to resume Thursday

The U.S. said Wednesday that indirect talks with Iran over the Obama-era nuclear deal will resume Thursday after concerns the negotiations would be halted.

The discussions were thrown into jeopardy after a Sunday attack on the Iranian nuclear site at Natanz, which Tehran said was Israel’s doing, and Iran’s decision to push its uranium enrichment to 60 percent. 

“We don’t have any additional speculation to add to the cause or the origin of the attacks over the weekend,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday. “The diplomatic conversations, though they will be indirect, will reconvene tomorrow in Vienna. We know this will be a long process but we certainly see that as a positive sign.”

“Our understanding is they plan to attend tomorrow,” she added, referring to Iranian negotiators. “We are also very open-eyed about how this will be a long process. It is happening through indirect negotiations but we still feel that it is a step forward.” 

The European Union also confirmed that talks would occur Thursday.

“Participants will continue to discuss the prospect of a possible return of the United States to the JCPOA and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA by all sides,” the body said, referring to the formal name of the arrangement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Indirect talks through European intermediaries began last week in Vienna. 

While several parties involved called the talks productive, no tangible breakthrough has yet occurred.

Washington and Tehran have found themselves at loggerheads over how to return to the pact after then-President Trump in 2018 withdrew the U.S. from the deal.

President Biden maintains that any sanctions relief must follow a drop in uranium enrichment by Iran, though Tehran is demanding that penalties be lifted before any adjustments to its nuclear program are made.

Tensions over the talks rose with the attack on Natanz and Iran’s announcement of its boosted enrichment, which goes far beyond the limits imposed by the nuclear deal.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, condemned Iran’s announcement that it was moving forward on enriching uranium up to 60 percent purity — much closer to the 90 percent purity that is necessary to begin making fuel for a nuclear bomb.

“We take very seriously its provocative announcement of an intent to begin enriching uranium at 60 percent. And the P5+1 should be unified and united in rejecting that,” Blinken said, referring to the signatories to the JCPOA, the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China.

“I have to tell you the step calls into question around seriousness, with regard to the nuclear talks, just as it underscores the imperative of returning to mutual compliance with the JCPOA,” the secretary added. 

Laura Kelly contributed to this report.

Tags Antony Blinken Donald Trump foreign relations Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Natanz Nuclear energy in Iran Nuclear program of Iran United States withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

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