Mr. Biden’s team has said that once there is mutual compliance with the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A., Washington wants to negotiate further with Iran to extend the time limitations in the deal and to try to constrain Iran’s missile programs and military support in the Middle East for groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Shia militias, as well as for the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.
The European Union issued a chairman’s statement after the meeting on Friday announcing the Vienna talks “in order to clearly identify sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures.’’ All parties, including Russia and China, “emphasized their commitment to preserve the JCPOA,” the statement said.
Both sides have been trying, through the European participants, to find a way back to the agreement without causing political problems at home. Iran will hold presidential elections in June, and the government clearly wants to show progress toward the lifting of punishing sanctions before then. Mr. Biden must be careful not to give Republicans in the Senate, most of whom opposed the deal in the first place, any sense that he is giving in to Iranian demands.
While Iran has always insisted it will never seek a nuclear weapon, the country is now thought to be only a few months away from amassing enough highly enriched uranium to create at least one nuclear weapon, so time is a factor for Washington, too.
In Tehran, Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s nuclear negotiator in the meeting, said that “return by the U.S. to the nuclear deal does not require any negotiation and the path is quite clear,” state television reported. Iran has insisted that since Washington was the one who left the deal, it must first return to it before Iran does, a public position it is likely to maintain despite the sequencing the Vienna talks are hoping to create.
Russia’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said that “the impression is that we are on the right track, but the way ahead will not be easy and will require intensive efforts. The stakeholders seem to be ready for that.”
Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York.