Sunday, June 13

Iran speaks: ‘optimistic’ European diplomats but need more time

Senior diplomats from China, Germany, France, Russia and the United Kingdom advanced Saturday’s talks focused on getting the United States back to its historic nuclear deal with Iran, but said they need more work and time to reach a future deal.

After the meeting, Russia’s top representative Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted that members of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, “noted today the indisputable progress made in the Vienna talks on restoring the nuclear deal.”

“The Joint Commission will meet again at the end of next week,” wrote Ulyanov. “In the meantime, experts will continue to draft elements of the future agreement.”

“It is too early to be excited, but we have reason to be cautious and growing optimism,” he added. “There is no deadline, but the participants aim to successfully complete the conversations in about 3 weeks.”

More sober

The three Western European countries involved in the talks gave a more moderate note.

“We have a lot of work left and we have little time left. In that context, we would have expected more progress this week, ”said the high-level diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be named publicly.

“We still have to reach an understanding on the most critical points. Success is by no means guaranteed, but it is not impossible either. “

Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, participated in the Vienna talks.

“I can say that now our discussions have reached maturity, both on the issues in dispute and the sections on which we agree,” he told Iranian state television. “Although we still cannot fully predict when and how we will be able to reach an agreement, progress is being made, albeit slowly.”

The United States did not have a representative at the table when diplomats met in Vienna because former President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the country out of the agreement in 2018. Trump also restored and increased sanctions to try to force Iran to renegotiate the pact with more. concessions. .

President Joe Biden

However, US President Joe Biden wants to rejoin the deal, and a US delegation in Vienna was engaging in indirect talks with Iran, with diplomats from the other world powers acting as intermediaries.

The Biden administration is considering a rollback of some of the toughest Trump-era sanctions in a bid to get Iran back into compliance with the nuclear deal, according to current and former US officials and others familiar with the matter.

Ulyanov said that JCPOA members met alongside officials from the US delegation, but that the Iranian delegation was not ready to meet with US diplomats.

The nuclear deal promised financial incentives to Iran in exchange for curbing its nuclear program. The reimposition of US sanctions has left the Islamic Republic’s economy reeling. Tehran has responded by steadily increasing its violations of the deal, such as increasing the purity of the uranium it enriches and its reserves, in a so far unsuccessful effort to pressure other countries to provide sanctions relief.

Nuclear bomb

The ultimate goal of the deal is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, something it insists it does not want to do. Iran now has enough enriched uranium to make a bomb, but it is nowhere near the amount it had before the signing of the nuclear deal.

The Vienna talks began in early April and have included several rounds of high-level discussions. The think tanks have also been working on how to resolve issues related to US sanctions and Iran compliance, as well as the “possible sequence” of the US return.

Outside of the talks in Vienna, other challenges remain.

An attack suspected of having been carried out by Israel recently struck the Natanz nuclear site in Iran, causing an unknown amount of damage. Tehran retaliated by starting to enrich a small amount of uranium to 60% purity, its highest level to date.

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