Iran has agreed to restart talks with the US to resolve outstanding issues in the coming days.
Indirect talks centred around the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the United States will soon resume in a “Persian Gulf country”, facilitated by the European Union, Iran’s foreign minister said on Saturday, as EU’s top diplomat looks to break the month-long stalemate in the negotiations.
According to Iranian media, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said the talks between Iran, the US and the EU will not occur in Vienna “because they will not be in the 4+1 format,” suggesting the talks will probably take place in a location much closer to the Gulf “and more specifically in a Persian Gulf state.”
Reports indicate the indirect discussions will likely be held in Qatar, though Doha has yet to comment on the matter.
In a statement to Al Jazeera, an Iranian official indicated that Qatar has the highest possibility to embrace the resumption of negotiations on the accord.
On Sunday, adviser to the Iranian delegation of the nuclear deal, Mohammad Marandi, noted the potential transfer of negotiations to Qatar and said Iran has “chosen” the Gulf country as a place for negotiations because “it is a friendly country,” as reported by Al Araby Al Jadeed.
Though Qatar has yet to respond to the Iranians, analysts believe Doha could be an ideal location.
Dr. Trita Parsi, Executive Vice President of the US think tank Quincy Institute told Doha News that “it appears quite likely that Qatar will host talks, which is not surprising mindful of the extremely valuable role Qatar has played in mediating between the United States and Iran.”
Baker Institute for Public Policy’s Fellow for the Middle East Dr Kristian Ulrichsen told Doha News that “if the talks take place in Doha they will reflect the ease with which the parties can work with their hosts, both separately and together, to identify areas of concern and issues around which compromise may be reached.”
Talks with world powers to revive the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has been in deadlock since March.
A draft was initially written up before the standstill but was not be finalised, with delays being blamed on Russia’s demand for guarantees that its trade relations with Iran would not be affected by the newly-imposed US sanctions on Moscow.
It was also further delayed due to a lack of middle ground between Tehran and Washington regarding a compromise on the former’s request to delist its paramilitary arm, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), from the infamous US State Department terrorist list.
“Regarding the IRGC, what is important is to acknowledge the standing and the central role of the IRGC in our security and defence. [Negotiators] relayed some messages to the US,” said Amir-Abdollahian in late March, as quoted by Iranian media outlets.
The significance of this request, for Iran, lies in IRGC’s tie to certain economic entities within the Islamic Republic. A failure to delist the Guards, will impact the Iranian economy, former Iranian Foreign Minister Sayyid Kamal Kharrazi said at the Doha Forum 2022.
Since then, Iran has instead requested the lifting of sanctions on Khatam-al Anbiya Construction Headquarters and a few other entities, according to a correspondent in Tehran.
Khatam-al Anbiya Construction Headquarters is IRGC’s major engineering arm and one of the Islamic Republic’s largest contractors in industrial and developmental projects.
The upcoming talks are expected to include EU Deputy Secretary General and Iran talks coordinator Enrique Mora—who accompanied Borrell on the trip to Iran, reports detailed.
The US team is expected to be led by US Envoy for Iran Rob Malley while the Iranian side is expected to be led by Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ali Bagheri-Kani, though both parties will stay at “separate hotels,” with the EU group shuttling in between, the report added.
Speaking alongside Borrell in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said “a final deal is within reach, if other parties have the will to do so.
“Iran is resolute on reaching a good, strong and durable deal,” he noted, adding that he had held a “long but positive meeting” with Borrell.
However, Marandi said the resumption of nuclear negotiations does not guarantee the approach of attaining a conclusion.
“The agreement has become hostage to the will of the Americans,” the Iranian official added, stressing that the conclusion of the agreement depends on the lifting of sanctions and the provision of guarantees to Tehran in an “acceptable manner.”
Iran’s foreign minister called on Washington to “look realistically at the Vienna negotiations in order to reach an agreement,” stressing that his side is ready to resume talks in the coming days.
“On substance, the two sides are still far away from each other,” Dr Parsi told Doha News, adding that it is almost impossible that the new rounds of talks will resume in a quick manner “but it is important to keep diplomacy alive.”
“The Iranians may have to reduce some of their asks, but the US side also needs to show far greater political courage and determination if it wants to see the JCPOA renewed,” the chairman added.
Qatar’s mediating role
Doha has played a crucial role in mediating to resolve issues among various parties in recent years, however, officials have repeated Qatar has no official role in the nuclear talks.
Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani confirmed that Qatar is “not effectively or officially a mediator,” but nevertheless, the Gulf country hopes to bridge the gap between Iran and the US.
In late March, the FM said Iran’s foreign affairs “certainly” affects Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries as it is a neighbouring nation.
The Qatari top diplomat reiterated the country’s firm stance in liaising a constructive dialogue between Iran and the United States through its respective communication channels.
Regarding the crippling economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic, Sheikh Mohammed said “as a small country, we never believe that economic sanctions or unilateral sanctions are an effective tool to change policies. This has been very clear and principled position for us.”
Economic sanctions have a direct negative impact on the people of nation and “punishing people for policies of government, we don’t see it as the right approach,” Sheikh Mohammed said at the time.
“We believe that the economic sanctions need to be lifted and the country [Iran] needs relief because of the people and this is the livelihood of the Iranian people, it’s not punishing a government.”
On Monday, Iran’s foreign ministry said the time and location of the talks would be announced “within hours”.