Iran and Saudi Arabia, longtime opponents on a range of disputes in the Middle East, recently engaged in direct discussions. “We hope they will provide a basis to address issues between the two sides, and we will strive and work to realize that,” said Saudi Arabia Foreign Minster Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud.
The United States applauded the news. “We welcome any direct talks that lead to greater peace and stability in the region,” said Jennifer Gavito, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq at the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
Also in the interest of peace and stability, the United States has repeatedly made clear its hopes that Tehran will renew discussions with the United States and other P5+1 countries over a return by the U.S. and Iran to compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the JCPOA. There have been six rounds of discussions this year in Vienna, but they have stalled since June, and Iran has not yet agreed on a date to resume them.
In the meantime, U.S. nuclear-related sanctions against Iran remain in place, and Iran has significantly expanded its nuclear program beyond JCPOA limits.
At a recent press briefing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that in Vienna, the United States “demonstrated in those talks with European partners, with China, with Russia, that we were fully prepared to go back into compliance with the JCPOA if Iran was prepared to do the same thing. And to date, [the Iranians] have not demonstrated a willingness to do that.”
“The ball remains in their court, but not for long,” said Secretary Blinken. “The problem that we face…is that because of the work that Iran is doing on its nuclear program in violation of the JCPOA – spinning more sophisticated centrifuges, building up stockpiles of uranium enriched to 20 or even 60 percent — simply getting back to the terms of the JCPOA at some point will not be sufficient to recapture the benefits of the agreement.”
The United States continues to believe diplomacy is the best route to ensure that Iran will never achieve a nuclear weapon. “But there is a limited runway on that, and the runway is getting shorter,” said Secretary Blinken. “Our hope and expectation is that all of our partner countries in this will prevail upon Iran to quickly return and see if we can still get back to the JCPOA.”