An unconditional return “is the key to breaking the deadlock,” Hua Chuying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said at a news conference.
Iranian officials said Thursday that Iran would likely join the talks but they offered no immediate public reaction beyond a tweet from Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who welcomed Mr. Biden’s stance on the United Nations sanctions, writing, “We agree.”
Across the Persian Gulf from Iran, American allies who view Iranian expansionism as a major threat were gritting their teeth over the news.
Ali Shihabi, a Saudi political commentator who is viewed as being close to the government, said Saudi Arabia had been signaling to the Biden administration for months that it supported re-engaging with Iran, but only if the goal was a deal more far-reaching than the 2015 agreement, with additional constraints on Iran’s regional behavior.
“The Biden people are making all the right noises,” he said, “but the proof is in the pudding.”
Calling renewed negotiations with Iran “a totally mind-boggling thing to do,” Mohammed Alyahya, the editor in chief of the English website of the Saudi-owned news channel Al Arabiya, warned that lifting sanctions against Iran would mean giving away all the leverage the Trump administration accrued through its maximum-pressure campaign of economic punishment, leaving Tehran to do as it pleased.
“We’ve seen this movie before,” Mr. Alyahya said. “Going back to the same deal is going to yield the same exact results that the first deal did: an empowered Iran, an Iran that is going to quickly try to reclaim its regional leverage that it has lost as a result of the maximum pressure campaign. This is not a regime that will act in good faith.”
Yet amid a cooling in U.S.-Saudi relations — Biden officials have said they will recalibrate the relationship after four years of coziness between the Trump administration and the Saudis — Saudi Arabia’s official communications have taken care to emphasize the positive in its dealings with the Biden administration so far, said Eman Alhussein, a Saudi analyst at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.