European powers along with Russia and China have begun working to get the United States to rejoin the Iranian nuclear deal, which unilaterally pulled out in May of 2018. Formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the members are often referred to as the P5+1 and include Germany, France, United Kingdom, China and Russia along with the U.S. until it pulled out and Iran. Closed door meeting on Tuesday in Vienna bore optimistic fruit according to China.
Following The U.S. withdrawal, Iran began violating the terms of the agreement in specific strategic ways to pressure European powers to work around the U.S.’s sanctions by enriching uranium well beyond what limits were allowed under the deal, building newer and faster centrifuges to enrich uranium, testing ballistic missiles and violating sanctions on prohibited items that could be sold to Iran. While some European powers initially tried to make a mechanism that would allow direct trade between them and Iran to bypass U.S. sanctions, it ultimately failed as it could not get all the necessary participants to cooperate, most notably European banks and financial institutions were refusing to be a part of the scheme to get around U.S. sanctions.
Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov said initial talks were successful and that “the restoration of the JCPOA will not happen immediately. It will take some time. How long? Nobody knows. The most important thing after today’s meeting of the Joint Commission is that practical work towards achieving this goal has started. The United States was not part of this Joint Commission and did not attend the meetings.
President Biden has said he would like to see the U.S. rejoin the accord, but that Iran will have to com back into compliance first. This is nearly the opposite of Iran’s position in which it maintains that the U.S. broke the agreement first by withdrawing from the agreement and so the U.S. will have to rejoin and remove sanctions before Iran will begin to destroy the banned stockpile it has amassed.
Iranian negotiator Abbas Araghchi said in Iranian state TV “Lifting U.S. sanctions is the first and the most necessary action for reviving the deal, Iran is fully ready to reverse its activities and return to complete implementation of the deal immediately after it is verified sanctions are lifted.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a new conference on Wednesday that the U.S. is prepared to remove sanctions "inconsistent" with the JCPOA.