A State Department official on Thursday told reporters that there are still “serious differences” between the US and Iran over the indirect negotiations to revive the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
On Wednesday, an Iranian official said an agreement had been reached in the latest round of talks for the US to lift all oil and shipping sanctions, but the US rebuked the claim later in the day. During Thursday’s press briefing, the State Department official who was unnamed made it clear that the US has not yet agreed to any major sanctions relief.
“There has been some reporting that we basically have a deal already with Iran, that it’s just a matter of deciding when we’re going to put it out,” the official said. “Let me make it absolutely clear: We just concluded round six. We will be resuming — or coming back for round seven sometime in the not-too-distant future, and we wouldn’t be doing that if the deal were already done.”
The sixth round of talks concluded in Vienna on Sunday, and it’s not clear when the next round will begin. The State Department official made it sound like there’s still a long way to go. “We still have serious differences that have not been bridged, serious differences with Iran over the host of issues,” the official said.
The US has been downplaying the idea that Iran’s presidential election would impact the talks. But if a deal is not reached before President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in August, it’s unlikely that the JCPOA will be salvaged. The State Department official said there’s no “deadline” for the talks but suggested the US might not negotiate for too much longer.
“This is not something that we could go on indefinitely,” the official said. “We’ve made progress, and the Iranians have been serious in the talks so far, but we do have differences. And if we can’t bridge them in the foreseeable future, I think we’re going to have to regroup and figure out how we move ahead.”
The talks have been ongoing since April. While the US blames Iran for the slow progress, the Biden administration is refusing to lift all Trump-era sanctions, which is what it would take for the US to return to its commitments. The two sides are currently negotiating what sanctions the US will lift, which is a significant concession for Iran to make. Raisi is considered a hardliner, but he favors a revival of the JCPOA if the US lifts sanctions. So no matter who is in office in Tehran, it’s on the US to save the deal.