Nuclear talks in Vienna
Nuclear talks in ViennaReuters

The United States is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program, the State Department reaffirmed on Monday, after Tehran said it would consider such an option.

"We are prepared to meet directly," a State Department spokesperson said, according to France24.

"We have long held the position that it would be more productive to engage with Iran directly, on both JCPOA negotiations and other issues," the spokesperson said, referring to the nuclear deal between Iran and major powers.

The spokesperson added that meeting directly would allow "more efficient communication" needed to reach an understanding on what is needed to resuscitate the 2015 deal.

"Given the pace of Iran's nuclear advances, we are almost out of time to reach an understanding on mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA," the official was quoted as having said.

The comments came after Iran said Monday it will consider direct talks with the United States during ongoing negotiations in Vienna aimed at restoring the deal.

"Iran is not currently talking with the US directly," Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in televised remarks, adding, "But, if during the negotiation process we get to a point that reaching a good agreement with solid guarantees requires a level of talks with the US, we will not ignore that in our work schedule."

The remarks appear to be a shift in Iran’s policy, as the Islamic Republic had previously stated that the US must "change course" and return to the nuclear deal, prior to any direct talks between the sides.

Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with world powers in response to former US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018.

However, it has held several rounds of indirect talks with the US on reviving the deal. The talks are being mediated by the remaining five countries that are party to the deal.

The negotiations, which seek to bring Washington back to the accord and ensure Iran returns to its commitments under the deal, started in April, and resumed in late November, after they were suspended in June as Iran elected ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi.

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly demanded that the US lift sanctions imposed on Iran and also reassure Iran it will not abandon the deal again as a precondition for its returning to compliance with the deal.

Last week it was reported that Russia has discussed a possible interim agreement with Iran in recent weeks.

The interim agreement would involve limited sanctions relief in return for reimposing some restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program, sources said.

The sources noted the US is aware of Russia’s proposal to Iran but senior Biden administration officials distanced the US from the Russian effort.