Iran nuclear deal: USA joins Vienna talks aimed at reviving accord

Brunilde Fioravanti
Апреля 7, 2021

European intermediaries have started shuttling between Iranian and US officials in Vienna as they seek to bring both countries back into full compliance with the accord that Washington abandoned three years ago, diplomats said.

Iran has steadily overstepped the accord's limits on its nuclear programme in response to Washington's unilateral withdrawal from the accord in 2018 and its reimposition of sanctions that have crippled the Islamic Republic's economy. "So this opportunity shouldn't be wasted", he said on Twitter.

Following the meeting in Vienna, Iranian state television quoted Iran's negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, as reiterating that message during the opening round of talks.

"But we do believe that these discussions with our partners, and in turn our partners with Iran, is a healthy step forward", he stated.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki suggested that the negotiations will be a hard and long process. "But I think what we have is at least the germ of a process whereby both sides can say we're moving simultaneously, both sides can save a little face and put together a roadmap going forward", said Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank.

Speaking from Tehran, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Iran was neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the outcome of the meeting.

On the eve of the talks, Rob Malley, US special envoy on Iran, talked only of removing "those sanctions that are inconsistent with the deal". The diplomats also denied Biden will give concessions to Iran.

They're prepared to grant billions and billions of dollars in sanctions relief and the question is how well are they going to be to really be willing to crack the whip and demand that the Iranians strengthen this deal as well as address some of their really malign activities that weren't part of this deal at all. Still, he defended efforts to reimplement the JCPOA in an interview with NPR on Tuesday. Tehran has long denied it is enriching uranium for any other goal than civilian nuclear energy. "It has failed", Malley said.

"The root cause of the Iranian nuclear crisis is the U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the #JCPOA which undermined the consensus of all parties", Chinese foreign ministry official Zhao Lijian wrote on Twitter.

The experts were set to begin technical work later on Tuesday with the aim of marrying lists of sanctions that the United States could lift with nuclear obligations Iran should meet.

The meetings, hosted by the European Union, will work toward two separate agreements - on how the USA and Iran can both return to compliance with the deal's terms.

Tehran and Beijing had signed a 25-year "strategic cooperation" agreement late last month.

The objective is some form of an accord ahead of June's Iranian presidential election, an European Union official said, although Iranian and US officials have said there is no rush.

The ultimate goal of the deal is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, something it insists it doesn't want to do.

But the White House is facing pressure from Republicans and some Democrats against reviving the nuclear agreement.

Just last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted a face-to-face meeting was "unnecessary".

"The Biden administration's first priority should be freeing American hostages, not offering sanctions relief to the ayatollahs".

Iran has called for Saudi Arabia to engage in direct talks to solve ongoing issues between the two countries without the involvement of a third party, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said yesterday.

While both sides have downplayed Tuesday's meetings, it could mark the beginning of a quick return to the deal, which saw Iran agree to worldwide inspections of and certain time-limited restrictions on its nuclear program.

It has refused to meet USA negotiators at the latest talks, meaning European players will act as intermediaries.

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