Representatives attending a meeting of the joint commission on negotiations aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria, on Dec, 27, 2021. (EU delegation in Vienna/EEAS/AFP)
AGENCIES December 27, 2021
- EU diplomat Enrique Mora, who is chairing the talks, says all sides were showing ‘a clear will to work toward the successful end of this negotiation’
- Talks are expecting to resume Monday next week
VIENNA: Negotiators trying to save the landmark Iran nuclear deal resumed discussions on Monday with the EU chair warning of “difficult” work ahead.
Negotiations to salvage the 2015 agreement restarted in late November, after a five-month hiatus following the election of ultraconservative Iran President Ebrahim Raisi.
The talks seek to bring back the US, after it left the accord in 2018, and curtail Iran’s nuclear activities, stepped up in response to the US withdrawal and reimposed sanctions.
EU diplomat Enrique Mora, who is chairing the talks, said all sides were showing “a clear will to work toward the successful end of this negotiation.”
“If we work hard in the days and weeks ahead we should have a positive result…. It’s going to be very difficult, it’s going to be very hard. Difficult political decisions have to be taken both in Tehran and in Washington,” the talks’ coordinator, Mora told a news conference.
He was speaking shortly after a meeting of the remaining parties to the deal — Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union — formally kicked off the round on Monday evening.
“There is a sense of urgency in all delegations that this negotiation has to be finished in a relatively reasonable period of time. Again, I wouldn’t put limits but we are talking about weeks, not about months,” Mora said.
He said the talks will discuss US sanctions-lifting and Iran’s atomic commitments in parallel despite comments by Tehran and Beijing suggesting sanctions would be the focus.
“We are working on both tracks in parallel … We are not working on one side and forgetting or neglecting the other. On the contrary, both tracks are mutually reinforcing,” Mora added.
Ahead of the resumption, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the agenda should be “the issue of guarantees and verification” on the lifting of US sanctions.
“The most important thing for us is to reach a point where we can verify that Iranian oil will be sold easily and without any limits, that the money for this oil will be transferred in foreign currency to Iranian bank accounts, and that we will be able to benefit from all the revenues,” he said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.
The talks involve delegations from Iran and the other countries that remain party to the landmark accord — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
Washington is participating indirectly, with diplomats shuttling back and forth between the Iranian and the US sides.
Iran has reported progress in the talks, but European diplomats have warned they are “rapidly reaching the end of the road.”
US negotiator Rob Malley has said there are only “weeks” left to revive the deal, if Iran continues its current pace of nuclear activities.
The seventh round of talks, the first under Iran’s new hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi, ended 10 days ago after adding some new Iranian demands to a working text. Western powers said progress was too slow and negotiators had “weeks not months” left before the 2015 deal becomes meaningless.
The deal offered Iran a lifting of economic sanctions in return for strict curbs on its nuclear program.
The goal was to make it practically impossible for Iran to build an atomic bomb, while allowing it to pursue a civilian nuclear program.
But the deal started to unravel in 2018 when former US president Donald Trump pulled out and began imposing sanctions on the Islamic republic.
US President Joe Biden has said he is willing to return to the deal as long as Iran also resumes the original terms.
Iran, which denies it wants to acquire a nuclear arsenal, has gradually abandoned its commitments to the accord since 2019, including by stepping up its enrichment of uranium.
Iran’s arch-rival Israel, which staunchly opposes the nuclear deal, had reportedly warned in November that the Islamic republic had taken the technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to military-grade levels of around 90 percent.
“Stopping Iran’s nuclear program is the primary challenge for Israeli foreign and security policy,” Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Monday.
“We prefer to act through international cooperation, but if necessary, we will defend ourselves, by ourselves.”
On Saturday, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran director Mohammad Eslami said Tehran has no plans to enrich uranium beyond 60 percent, even if the Vienna talks fail.
Eslami said the enrichment levels were related to the needs of the country, in remarks published by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
Mora said he decided to reconvene the talks during many officials’ holidays between Christmas and the New Year so as not to lose time, but he added that talks would stop for three days as of Friday “because the facilities will not be available,” referring to the luxury hotel hosting most meetings. They are expecting to resume Monday next week.
Moscow’s ambassador to the UN in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said on Twitter that negotiators “held businesslike and result-oriented discussions.”
“In particular they agreed to intensify the drafting process in order to achieve an agreement ASAP,” he said.
Earlier Monday, he said it was the “presumably final round of negotiations.”
(With AFP and Reuters)