Iran returned to negotiations on its nuclear program on Monday – for the first time in over five months, with the country’s new hard-line government now in control.
Its chief negotiator emerged from closed doors optimistically as Tehran demands that its concerns about ongoing US sanctions be allayed after former President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal.
But the US and European signatories of the agreement are warning that after months of delay, Iran is facing its last opportunity to revive the 2015 agreement, which imposed its nuclear program in exchange for international sanctions.
A high-ranking diplomat from the European Union, who coordinates the indirect talks between the USA and Iran, then expressed himself cautiously optimistic – and with great urgency.
“All delegations clearly have a will to listen to the Iranian positions of the new team and the Iranian delegation is clearly willing to work seriously to bring the JCPOA back to life,” said Enrique Mora, senior EU diplomat who sent a Acronym used for the formal name of the nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“I am confident that we can do important things in the next few weeks,” added Mora after meeting delegations from Iran, Russia, China, Great Britain, France and Germany in Vienna, Austria.
Whether the US and its European allies are willing to wait weeks is an open question – especially since Ebrahim Raisi, the new President of Iran who is a Conservative clergyman close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has since resumed talks Victory delays June election.
“These talks are the last opportunity for the Iranians to come to a table and agree to the JCPOA,” said British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Monday. “We’ll look at all options if that doesn’t happen.”
In Israel, whose defense minister warned on Monday that Iran was “charging at a nuclear weapon”, patience is almost lacking.
Israeli officials shared information with the US and other allies showing Iran is approaching a nuclear weapon, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.
Since Trump’s exit, Iran has increasingly taken steps in violation of the agreement, including enriching more uranium, enriching uranium to higher levels, using more advanced centrifuges and more, and enriching uranium metal. The United Nations Atomic Energy Agency – the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA – reported this month that Iran has enriched 39 pounds of uranium to 60%, which is a short technical move from 90% with weapon quality.
Under the nuclear deal, Iran’s enrichment was limited to 3.67% for 15 years.
The State Department declined to comment on reports that Iran may be moving towards 90% enrichment levels, but Deputy Spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters that “it would obviously be a provocative act, and I just emphasize that we made it clear have that Iran carry on â. Nuclear escalations are not constructive and also contradict what is stated in the goal of return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA. “
But before talks resumed, Iran used harsher language to reject the idea of ââ”mutual compliance” – increasingly arguing that the US must act first because Trump pulled out of the deal as early as 2018.
“The principle of ‘mutual compliance’ cannot form a suitable basis for negotiations, as the US government has unilaterally left the agreement,” wrote Iranian chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani in an editorial on Sunday, calling for a “clear and transparent mechanism”. to ensure that sanctions are lifted “and” US compensation for violation of the agreement, which includes the lifting of all JCPOA sanctions “.
The Biden administration has announced that it will not lift the sanctions first, and the idea of ââcompensating Iran for the US sanctions is politically toxic in Washington.
It is unclear if these demands are just Iran’s stance before sitting or if they are red lines. Of Monday’s meetings, Bagheri claimed a “significant achievement” by saying the remaining parties to the deal had agreed to address US sanctions first. But that doesn’t mean they agreed that these sanctions must be lifted before Iran’s own non-compliance is addressed. The working-level talks will look at US sanctions on Tuesday and Iran’s nuclear program on Wednesday, according to Mora.
The State Department has not yet presented a reading by the Iranian Special Envoy Rob Malley in Vienna, where the previous six rounds of talks also took place.
Beyond Mora’s optimism, Russia’s envoy Mikhail Ulyanov said the talks had “got off to a fairly successful start” and agreed on “further immediate steps” without naming them.
All optimism has met face-first at the dire warnings of Israel, whose Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has spoken out loudly against the restoration of the nuclear deal.
“Iran deserves no rewards, no bargains and no sanctions in return for its brutality. I urge our allies around the world: Do not give in to the nuclear blackmail of Iran,” said Bennett on Monday.
Malley told NPR last week that the US and Israel disagree on the deal, but they agree that Iran must be prevented from obtaining a nuclear weapon: “We won’t wait and see them so close come, “he said, but the US hopes” that this could and should be resolved diplomatically “.
Amid warnings that prolonging these talks could stall Iran, Malley added that the US will not “stand by” as the country moves towards an atomic bomb.
But the US and European allies fought the IAEA and last week again refused to blame Iran not only for its violations of the agreement, but also for its increasing obstruction to the work of the IAEA.
Iran has denied inspectors access to certain sites, harassed inspectors with invasive security searches and still failed to explain the proven presence of uranium in three undeclared locations, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told the UN panel last Wednesday.
Grossi visited Tehran last week – his first trip under the Raisi government – but he has not reached an agreement to address these issues, he told reporters on Wednesday. An earlier ad hoc agreement with Iran to keep an eye on declared nuclear weapons sites internationally is falling apart, he warned. Iran agreed to leave IAEA cameras and other surveillance equipment in place and to hand over the tapes to the agency if an agreement was reached. This equipment must be maintained to “ensure the continuity of knowledge,” said Grossi, but Iran has so far blocked the IAEA inspectors.
“Such a long period of time without us having access and knowing if operational activities are ongoing would prevent me from continuing to say that I have an idea,” he said at a press conference. “We have to reach an agreement. We have to do it.”