TEHRAN: Iran and the United States will on Monday and Tuesday hold their first direct talks in decades, in an unprecedented move toward securing a comprehensive nuclear deal between Tehran and the West.
The discussions will take place in Geneva, with the US delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and Undersecretary Wendy Sherman, who is responsible for Iran negotiations.
Iran will be represented at vice foreign minister level in what is the most senior direct bilateral contact on the nuclear issue so far. The talks will be the first between Iran and the US to fall outside the P5+1 group — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany — which is pursuing talks in the quest for a landmark nuclear settlement.
Jake Sullivan, National Security Adviser and Deputy Assistant to US President Barack Obama will join the US team.
Helga Schmid, the political director of the EU which has been overseeing the nuclear talks with Iran, will also join, the European Union said in a statement.
A senior US administration official said the latest developments signal that “the talks are intensifying”. The meeting is “a timely opportunity” to make progress, the US official said, stressed however that the talks would be “consultations” that would feed into the P5+1 process, which resumes between June 16-20 in Vienna.
The foreign ministry also said two days of direct talks with Russia in Rome would immediately follow the US discussions.
Iran’s meetings with the US and Russia will be interpreted as the start of an all-out diplomatic push to close glaring gaps that officials from both Tehran and major powers nations have said are blocking a deal.
Iran is also “working to arrange” bilateral discussions with remaining members of the P5+1 before the next meeting in Vienna, the ministry said.
The talks are aimed at securing a final deal ahead of a July 20 deadline imposed under an interim agreement last November, under which the US and its partners released $7bn from frozen funds in return for a slowdown in Iran’s controversial uranium enrichment programme. AFP