Jun 12, 2023 - World

Iran confirms holding indirect talks with U.S. in Oman

 Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani holds a press conference in Tehran, Iran on December 5, 2022

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani holds a press conference in Tehran on Dec. 5, 2022. Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani confirmed on Monday Axios’ report that Iran and the U.S. held indirect talks last month in Oman.

Why it matters: The “proximity talks” represented the first known indirect engagement between the U.S. and Iran in this way in several months. They took place amid growing concerns in the White House about Iran’s nuclear advances.

  • Kanaani's comments on Monday were the first confirmation by the Iranian government of the existence of the indirect talks. The Biden administration hasn’t publicly confirmed the talks have taken place.

What they're saying: Kanaani said in a briefing with reporters that the Iranian government exchanged messages with the U.S. regarding the lifting of sanctions.

  • He added that Iran isn’t discussing an interim agreement or any other arrangement that isn’t based on the 2015 nuclear deal.

Behind the scenes: White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk traveled to Oman secretly on May 8 for talks with Omani officials on possible diplomatic outreach to Iran regarding its nuclear program, as Axios previously reported.

  • According to three sources briefed on the issue, an Iranian delegation also arrived in Oman at the same time. Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kan was part of the delegation, one of the sources said.
  • McGurk and the Iranian officials didn't meet, according to the sources. The two sides were in separate locations with Omani officials going between them and passing messages.
  • According to the sources, one of the main messages from the U.S. focused on deterrence.
  • The sources said the U.S. made it clear that Iran will pay a heavy price if it moves forward with 90% uranium enrichment — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon.

The big picture: The aim of the indirect exchange of messages between the Biden administration and Iran was to reach an "understanding" about ways to de-escalate the Iranian nuclear program, Iran’s behavior in the region and its involvement in the war in Ukraine.

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