US says 'weeks, not months' remain for nuclear agreement with Iran

'We are not talking about a protracted period of time that remains,' says State Department spokesman Ned Price.

US says 'weeks, not months' remain for nuclear agreement with Iran

Ongoing talks to return Iran and the US to mutual compliance with an historic 2015 nuclear non-proliferation agreement have weeks, not months, to complete, the State Department said on Wednesday. 

Spokesman Ned Price described a "very, very short" timeline for the talks to conclude productively, saying "we are not talking about a protracted period of time that remains."

"We are talking about potential weeks, not months," he added.

Former US President Donald Trump unilaterally exited the agreement in 2018 in defiance of all the agreement's other participants, and re-imposed biting US sanctions that were lifted under the terms of the pact while issuing a slew of new economic penalties.

Iran, in retaliation, began to take steps away from its nuclear commitments under the international agreement in a bid to have Washington lift its financial salvos.

Ongoing talks in Vienna, Austria to return the US and Iran to full compliance with the pact resumed on Dec. 27, and Price said last week that there had been modest progress on accomplishing the goal.

On Saturday, Russian and Iranian officials said progress has been made in Vienna, and Mikhail Ulyanov, the top diplomat leading Russia's delegation, said the talks are moving "slowly but steadily."

Price maintained this week, however, that while there is not a strict temporal timeline for the talks to reach fruition, the US is measuring progress against a narrowing window based on Iran's continued nuclear advances.

"Really what we’re looking at here is a very simple equation: when do the non-proliferation benefits afforded by the JCPOA, as finalized in 2015 and implemented in 2016, when are they overcome by the advancements that Iran has made in its nuclear program since it began to break free from the limits that it previously subscribed to after the last administration left the JCPOA," he said.

Hüseyin Demir

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