The US has no plans to lift sanctions on Iran or take any additional steps before meeting with Tehran and other participants of the nuclear deal, the White House said on Friday.
“There’s no plan to take additional steps in advance of having a conversation — a diplomatic conversation,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters when asked if the US would lift sanctions ahead of talks with Iran.
On Thursday, the State Department said the US would accept an invitation from the EU to meet with Iran and other nuclear deal participants. The statement is the first sign that the Biden administration might move to change the failed “maximum pressure” campaign of the previous administration.
Following the statement, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif reiterated Tehran’s call for sanctions relief. He said Iran would “immediately” reverse the steps it has taken to increase nuclear activity to comply with the limits set by the JCPOA if the US lifts sanctions.
An EU official told Reuters that the EU is working to organize a meeting of the nuclear deal participants and the US. Zarif had previously suggested that the EU could help coordinate the actions needed to be taken by the US and Iran to revive the JCPOA.
Psaki said there were no plans for direct US-Iran talks without the European signatories to the deal. “This is the channel that we have used in the past, working in partnership with our P5+1 partners. That’s the diplomatic channel we anticipate taking moving forward,” she said. The P5+1 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.
While the Biden administration is willing to talk with Iran, other comments suggest the US might make additional demands of Tehran. In a speech on Friday, President Biden said he was ready to reengage with the P5+1 but also said, “We must also address Iran’s destabilizing activities across the Middle East.”
Psaki also discussed the possibility of a stricter agreement. “As we look ahead, would be a desire to have a conversation about their role in the region, their use of ballistic missiles, and that certainly is the administration’s objective,” she said. Any demands for a stricter deal that goes beyond the JCPOA limits before the US lifts sanctions would be a non-starter for negotiations with Iran.