Sunday, May 9

Iran cautiously optimistic about progress in Vienna nuclear deal talks


A senior Iranian official offered a cautiously optimistic assessment of progress in talks aimed at bringing the United States back to the 2015 world powers agreement with Tehran on its nuclear program, saying that a “new understanding” appears to be taking shape.

Iran has been negotiating with the five powers that remain in the deal – France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China – in Vienna for the past two weeks.

An American delegation was also in Vienna, but without speaking directly to Iran.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister said the talks had entered a new phase, adding that Iran had proposed draft agreements that could be a basis for negotiations.

“We believe that the talks have reached a stage where the parties can start working on a joint draft,” Abbas Araghchi told Iranian state television. “It seems that a new understanding is brewing, and now there is agreement on the final goals.”

“The path is better known, but it will not be an easy path,” added Araghchi. “It does not mean that the differences of opinion have reached the end.”

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal

The agreement aims to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, something it says it does not want to do.

It restricted Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from US and international sanctions. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out of the deal, opting for restored and additional US sanctions.

Since then, Iran has consistently violated the deal’s restrictions, such as the amount of enriched uranium it can store and the purity to which it can be enriched. Tehran’s measures have been calculated to pressure the other participants to do more to offset the devastating US sanctions. President Joe Biden has said that he wants the United States to return to the agreement, but that Iran must reverse its violations.

Natanz nuclear facility attacked

Additional complications have arisen: Last weekend, the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran was attacked. The culprits are suspected of being Israel, which opposes the nuclear deal, although authorities have not commented.

Iran responded by announcing that it would increase uranium enrichment to 60% purity, far more than ever, and install more advanced centrifuges at the Natanz facility. On Saturday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it had verified that Iran had started production of up to 60% enriched uranium hexafluoride at Natanz.

Vienna Conversations

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday dismissed offers seen so far in Vienna as “not worth considering.” Still, he said he had confidence in his negotiators, and Saturday’s reading from Iran sounded upbeat.

Diplomats from the six participating countries told the expert working groups on lifting sanctions and nuclear issues “to continue their activities on Saturday afternoon, Sunday and next week” to keep moving forward, Russian representative Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted.

Enrique Mora, the European Union official who chaired the talks, tweeted that “progress has been made in a task that is not easy at all. We now need more detailed work.”


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