Monday, April 19

Iran and US on track to return to nuclear deal, says Russia | World News

Tehran and Washington are on the right track to return to compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, but progress will not be easy, Russia said after virtual talks.

In a positive sign, the parties agreed to meet formally in person in Vienna on Tuesday.

The virtual meeting of the joint commission, which is based in the Austrian capital, followed a breakthrough earlier in the week in private talks on how Iran and the United States could once again fully comply with the agreement step by step.

The commission, of which France, the UK, Germany, China, the EU and Russia are members, is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The virtual meeting was attended by the vice minister of Foreign Relations or political director.

The Russian ambassador in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, described the meeting as formal. “The impression is that we are on the right track, but the way forward will not be easy and will require intense efforts,” he said. “Stakeholders seem to be ready for that.”

He had said before the meeting that the most prudent option would be “to agree on initial and significant steps in order to create a much more favorable climate to go quickly to the destination point with the full implementation of the JCPOA by all parties.”

There have been significant changes in the position of the United States, he said.

Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018 and increased economic sanctions on Iran in an effort to force Tehran to renegotiate the deal Washington had signed in 2015.

Iran has taken a series of retaliatory measures to walk away from the deal, initially saying it would not speak to Washington until the United States rejoins. Since then, backstage talks mediated by European powers have been mired in discussions about sequencing with the Biden administration, giving the impression that getting back to the deal was not a priority as it was focused on its national agenda.

A spokesman for the US State Department said the virtual meeting had been a positive step.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi reiterated Tehran’s position after the meeting. He said that as soon as the United States lifted sanctions and the move was verified, Iran would stop reducing its commitments to the deal. “No talks are required for the United States to return to the JCPOA … the path for the United States is quite clear,” he said.

The in-person meeting is likely to be held at a higher level, and Iran is sure to resist any discussion of updating or adding to the deal.

One way would be for the United States to lift its veto on International Monetary Fund loans to Iran. Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati said: “We hope that the International Monetary Fund will respond to Iran’s legal request as soon as possible, without discrimination, intrusion or pressure from the United States.”

The other ripe fruit would be for Washington to allow banks in South Korea and elsewhere to release up to $ 7bn (£ 5bn) in Iranian funds frozen by US sanctions.

Both approaches would be relatively easy for the United States to adopt and would not require congressional approval. Iran denies that Washington has offered it $ 15 billion in exchange for reducing its uranium enrichment level by 20%.

Some observers expected the United States to move more quickly to lift sanctions and assist the reform movement in Iran’s presidential elections in June, but for a variety of reasons, the Biden administration has opted for a slower and more measured pace.

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