The US government said Friday it has agreed to take part in indirect talks with Iran next week in an effort to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal from which Washington withdrew nearly three years ago.
While tamping down expectations that the discussions in Vienna slated for Tuesday will lead to "an immediate breakthrough," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement, "We believe this is a healthy step forward."
Under the deal struck with six major powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- Iran agreed to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
But former US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the deal in May 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Iran. Tehran has countered the US move by increasing its nuclear activities, such as uranium enrichment, beyond the limits set in the deal.
The latest development came as officials from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and Iran -- the remaining participants of the accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- agreed on Friday to hold an in-person meeting on Tuesday in Vienna.
The European Union, which chaired the virtual meeting on Friday, said in a statement after the talks that "separate contacts" in Vienna with all JCPOA participants and the United States will be arranged.
Price said he does "not anticipate presently that there will be direct talks between the United States and Iran through this process."
But he added, "The United States remains open to them."
Issues to be discussed in the talks will be the nuclear steps Iran would need to take to return to compliance with the agreement, and the sanctions relief steps the United States would need to take to return to compliance as well, according to Price.
A senior official with the European Union, the coordinator of the deal, said the aim is to reach an agreement within two months, according to Reuters.