Hassan Rouhani speaks during a cabinet meeting in Teheran on Wednesday. AFP

WASHINGTON/VIENNA-The United States is prepared to remove sanctions on Iran to resume compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, including those that are inconsistent with the 2015 pact, the US State Department said on Wednesday, without providing details.

“We are prepared to take the steps necessary to return to compliance with the JCPOA, including by lifting sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA. I am not in a position here to give you chapter and verse on what those might be,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. He was referring to the pact formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

This came as diplomats from major powers met separately on Wednesday with Iran and the US to discuss how to bring both back into compliance with the landmark deal Washington abandoned three years ago.

Neither of the arch-rivals expect fast breakthroughs in the talks that began in Vienna on Tuesday, with European and other diplomats acting as intermediaries because Teheran rejects face-to-face talks for now.

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said talks in Vienna on rescuing the nuclear deal had opened a “new chapter”.

“A new chapter has just been opened yesterday,” Rouhani told a cabinet meeting.

“If (Washington) shows it is honest and sincere, that’s all we ask… I think we’ll be able to negotiate in a short time, if necessary, with the (other parties to the deal).”

US President Joe Biden has said he is ready to reverse the decision of his predecessor Donald Trump to withdraw from the agreement and reimpose unilateral sanctions.

The deal’s remaining parties-Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom-agreed on Tuesday to form two expert-level groups whose job is to marry lists of sanctions that the US could lift with nuclear obligations Iran should meet.

Cargo ship attack

Diplomats said the groups, which are chaired by the European Union and exclude the US, met on Wednesday even after Iran acknowledged one of its cargo ships had been attacked on the Red Sea. Participants said the attack had no immediate effect on the meetings.

Price said the talks would be hard because of the indirect format, the history of US-Iran mistrust, and the complexity of the issues.

But he gave an upbeat assessment of the opening session. “We do see this as a constructive and certainly welcome step,” he said.

Agencies via Xinhua