The chances of reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are worse after indirect US-Iranian talks in Doha that ended without progress, a senior US official told Reuters on Thursday.
"The prospects for a deal after Doha are worse than they were before Doha and they will be getting worse by the day," said the official on condition of anonymity.
"You could describe Doha at best as treading water, at worst as moving backwards. But at this point treading water is for all practical purposes moving backwards," he added.
The official would not go into the details of the Doha talks, during which European Union officials shuttled between the two sides trying to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Under the agreement, Iran was expected to limit its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.
Former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and restored harsh sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to start violating its nuclear restrictions about a year later.
"Their vague demands, reopening of settled issues, and requests clearly unrelated to the JCPOA all suggests to us ... that the real discussion that has to take place is (not) between Iran and the US to resolve remaining differences. It is between Iran and Iran to resolve the fundamental question about whether they are interested in a mutual return to the JCPOA," the senior US official said.
"At this point, we are not sure if they (the Iranians) know what more they want. They didn't come to Doha with many specifics," he added. "Most of what they raised they either knew - or should have known - was outside the scope of the JCPOA and thus completely unsellable to us and to the Europeans, or were issues that had been thoroughly debated and resolved in Vienna and that we were clearly not going to reopen."
Speaking at the UN Security Council, US, British and French diplomats all placed the onus on Iran for the failure to revive the agreement after more than a year of negotiations.