US national security adviser: Washington will keep working for return to JCPOA

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan (right) sits along with President Joe Biden in a meeting. (AP file photo)

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan has said that American diplomats will keep working “to try to arrive at a mutual return to the JCPOA, which is the Iran nuclear deal, on a compliance-for-compliance basis.”

Sullivan made the remarks in an interview on Sunday after Iran’s lead negotiator said the third round of negotiations in Vienna to fully restore the 2015 nuclear agreement has concluded with some “maturity” and “clarity” while there remains a lengthy and bumpy road ahead.

Sullivan also acknowledged that Washington and Tehran are not close to an agreement to revive US participation in the nuclear pact, which was reached between Iran and the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union in 2015.

"There is no deal now," Sullivan told ABC News.

The US official said nothing had been agreed upon amid ongoing negotiations in Austria.

"There's still fair distance to travel to close the remaining gaps, and those gaps are over what sanctions the United States and other countries will roll back," he said.

"They are over what nuclear restrictions Iran will accept on its program to ensure that they can never get a nuclear weapon,” he said, repeating baseless US claim that Tehran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon. Iran’s top leadership has always maintained that the country’s nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. 

In recent days, expert negotiations were held within three working groups in Vienna that were formed to resolve technical issues hampering a full restoration of the nuclear agreement, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Bilateral and multilateral meetings were also held to exchange views and coordinate efforts aimed at reaching a consensus on the path forward.

The JCPOA was reached to lift international sanctions on Iran in exchange for certain restrictions and robust inspections on the country’s nuclear work.

Former Republican President Donald Trump in May 2018 unilaterally pulled the US out from the historic nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, describing the deal as the worst ever negotiated.

The Trump administration also reinstated the sanctions that had been lifted against Iran under the deal.

US President Joe Biden, who was vice president when the deal was reached back in 2015, had said during his campaign for presidency, that he would return the US to the deal if elected, but his administration has so far failed to take meaningful action on the pledge.

Tehran says Washington, in order to rejoin the deal, must first compensate for its past mistakes by removing all the sanctions that Trump imposed on Iran following withdrawal from the accord.

The US, however, says the ball is in Iran’s court, and that Tehran should first stop the retaliatory commitment reductions under Article 36 of the JCPOA before the sanctions are lifted.

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