TEHRAN: Iran will next week hold official direct talks with the United States for the first time in decades, in an unprecedented step toward ending its nuclear standoff with the West.
The discussions will take place in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday (Tuesday and Wednesday in Manila), Iran’s foreign ministry and the US State Department said in surprise announcements that come after serious concern that progress on a deal has been stalling.
The bilateral 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 has been pursuing a landmark nuclear settlement.
Significantly, the US delegation will be led by Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and Jake Sullivan, a White House adviser, previously part of a tiny team whose months of secret talks brought Iran back to the P5+1 negotiating table last year.
A senior US administration official said the latest developments signal that “the talks are intensifying” and any progress would feed into the P5+1, which resumes on June 16 to 20 in Vienna.
Iran will be represented at the vice foreign minister level at the US meetings, the most senior direct bilateral contact on the nuclear issue so far.
“These consultations come at an important juncture of the negotiations,” the senior US administration official told Agence France-Presse just after both sides announced the talks.
The talks “will give us a timely opportunity to exchange views in the context of the next P5+ 1 round in Vienna,” the US official added, asking not to be named.
A top European Union official will also participate in the meeting, US and EU officials said.