Iran will hold its first bilateral talks in decades with the United States in a major step towards concluding a comprehensive nuclear deal with the West.
The discussions will take place in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday, Iran’s foreign ministry said in a surprise statement carried by the official IRNA news agency on Saturday.
A State Department official confirmed the meeting, noting that the US delegation would be led by deputy secretary William Burns and Wendy Sherman, who is responsible for Iran negotiations.
Iran’s foreign ministry also said two days of direct talks with Russia would immediately follow in Rome, in what will be widely interpreted as an all-out diplomatic push to close glaring gaps between Iran and world powers over the future of the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.
“The Iranian vice foreign ministers will hold negotiations with their American counterparts,” as well as lead talks with Russian diplomats, the statement said.
The unprecedented set of direct bilateral talks come immediately before Iran’s next round of political discussions with the P5+1 group — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany — in Vienna, which begin on June 16.
Saturday’s announcement said Iran was also “working to arrange” other bilateral discussions with members of the P5+1 before the Vienna meeting.
The negotiations with the major powers are aimed at securing a comprehensive agreement on the Islamic republic’s disputed nuclear program ahead of a July 20 deadline.