The European Union played a key role during the four years of Donald Trump’s administration to keep the nuclear agreement with Iran alive and this Friday it has also contributed decisively to the resumption of contacts with Tehran and Washington to fully recover the application of the pact. The first step towards a possible understanding between the United States and Iran has been taken during a meeting chaired by a representative of Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy, and the signatory countries of the nuclear agreement (Iran, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Russia and China). The meeting has agreed to initiate separate contacts between the current members of the pact and with the United States next week in Vienna, two tables that are interpreted as the necessary way to pave the way for a future negotiation. Washington will thus resume contacts for a possible return to the pact.
Republican Donald Trump broke the historic agreement sealed in 2015 by his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, along with the aforementioned group of countries, and reactivated economic sanctions on Iran, convinced that this pact was harmful and that the pressure would force Tehran to negotiate a new deal. After years of blockade, the new American president, Democrat Joe Biden, has opened the door to return to the 2015 framework if Iran complies with it (which it has stopped doing), which would imply the lifting of the last imposed sanctions. However, Tehran is refusing to sit at the table with Washington as long as those penalties persist, which has left the situation at a standstill.
The pieces can start moving now. This Friday’s meeting has been described as “positive” by Enrique Mora, the Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service, who chaired the virtual meeting. Mora pointed out that “there is considerable work ahead for a crucial opportunity to get the JCPOA back on its feet. [siglas en inglés del nombre oficial del acuerdo iraní, Pacto de Acción Integral Conjunto]”.
Other delegations have expressed the same optimism, although Iran has insisted that there will be no direct negotiations – or indirect talks, anonymous sources told Iranian state television Press TV, Reuters reported – with the Biden Administration while Washington does not. remove the sanctions. The Americans will maintain “separate contacts” with the group, according to the European Commission, that is, they open a way of dialogue with Tehran through intermediaries.
The spokesman for the US State Department, Ned Price, warned that these are the first stages of a process with “difficult conversations ahead”, but highlighted the next appointment as “a healthy step forward.” “We do not anticipate that there will be direct talks with Iran through this process, although the United States remains open to them,” he said.
The permanent representative of Russia to international organizations in Vienna, Mihail Ulyanov, said via Twitter at the end of Friday’s meeting: “The impression is that we are on the right path, but it will not be easy and it will require great efforts.”
The meeting next Tuesday will try to pave the way for a future final negotiation. The objective of the meeting in Vienna, according to a communiqué from community diplomacy, will be “to clearly identify the withdrawal of sanctions and the implementation of nuclear measures,” alluding to both the cancellation of the US punishment and the need for Iran to once again comply with the restrictions set forth in the pact on the development of nuclear weapons production capabilities. Contacts to achieve both objectives will be established through two working groups in parallel.
The progress of this Friday’s meeting began to take shape at the end of December, during a first meeting between the High Representative for EU Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, the so-called E3 (Germany, France and the United Kingdom) and the E2 (Russia and China). That meeting took note of the announcement by Joe Biden, who after winning the US elections was willing to reconsider Washington’s position.
Since then, the EU has repeatedly called on the Iranian government not to take irreversible steps on the path to nuclear proliferation or to deviate drastically from the terms set out in the 2015 pact. Brussels had set itself the goal of ensuring compliance with that Pact on the Iranian side that would make it easier for Biden to return to the international arena without being accused of weakness in the face of the Iranian regime.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.