Negotiations have stalled since March, with Tehran and Washington accusing one another of not being ‘serious’ enough.
Talks to restore the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers are set to resume in Vienna on Thursday, with news about Tehran, the United States and the European Union reportedly sending senior representatives.
The fresh round of talks comes following two-day Doha talks in late June which came to an end with what was described as “little progress”.
The original format, which also included China, Russia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, will be reconvened to kickstart negotiations.
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, said he was heading to the Austrian capital “to advance the negotiations,” while Enrique Mora, the EU official who chairs the talks, said the new round of discussion will be centred around the most recent draft to revive the pact.
The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Tehran is serious about achieving a sustainable agreement.
United State Special Representative for Iran Rob Malley wrote on Twitter that he was preparing to travel to Vienna for talks on the nuclear file, adding that the American “expectations are in check” ahead of the negotiations.
“The United States welcomes EU efforts and is prepared for a good faith attempt to reach a deal. It will shortly be clear if Iran is prepared for the same,” Malley said.
The abrupt call for a meeting in Vienna comes after EU Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell repeatedly pushed to break the impasse and revive the pact in the previous weeks.
Writing in The Financial Times recently, Borrell said: “After 15 months of intense, constructive negotiations and countless interactions with the JCPOA participants and the US, the space for additional significant compromises to reach an agreement has been exhausted.”
“It is not a perfect agreement, but it addresses all essential elements and includes hard-won compromises by all sides”.
Tehran has always maintained the position that any agreement to revive the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), should result in the entire removal of the sanctions in a verifiable order. It also requires official guarantee by Washington ensuring that no other US administration would unilaterally abandon the nuclear deal.
The US pulled out of the JCPOA in May 2018 under the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran. In addition, the US reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The crucial gain from the JCPOA, for Iran, is the guarantee of economic advantage promised under the original deal, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian stressed.
“The US must seize the opportunity offered by the JCPOA partners’ generosity; ball is in their court to show maturity and act responsibly,” said Bagheri Kani in a tweet Wednesday.
Iran’s United Nations envoy Majid Takht Ravanchi said on Wednesday that Tehran has negotiated “in good-will” since April last year to resume complete implementation of the landmark deal, casting blame on Washington for failing to conclude the agreement.
“Achieving this objective has been delayed because the United States is yet to decide to give assurance that Iran will enjoy the promised economic benefits in the agreement,” he said during a high-level conference reviewing the landmark Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at UN headquarters in New York.
“When the US makes the right decision, Iran, in turn, will cease its remedial actions and resume the full implementation of its nuclear-related measures in accordance with the 2015 agreement,” Ravanchi added.
The German foreign ministry said Berlin would be represented through an “expert level” at the Vienna talks, explaining it backed the efforts garnered to fully salvage the accord “even if hopes are very small.”
Echoing other world powers, Germany urged Tehran to finalise the deal and said that would mean “giving up maximalist positions in areas beyond” the JCPOA.
Russia’s chief representative at the talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, also wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that negotiators from Russia, a key signatory of the JCPOA, “stand ready for constructive talks in order to finalise the agreement.”
Russia has maintained a somewhat different approach to the JCPOA than the other signatory counterparts.
Russian and Chinese diplomats have criticised Washington following ‘fruitless’ Doha talks, with Beijing’s representative urging the White House to “ease unilateral US sanctions on Iran” and Russia’s calling for all sides to show flexibility.
“It is indeed the [Trump] policy of maximum pressure on Iran, which the US administration continues to embrace, that this is the main cause of all of the current problems plaguing the JCPOA,” Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said in July.
Hours after Washington imposed a new batch of crippling sanctions against Iran’s petrochemical exports on Monday, Iran “responded by issuing an order to feed gas into ‘hundreds’ of advanced centrifuges, further accelerating its nuclear programme,” Al Jazeera reported.
The surprise decision to resume nuclear talks comes as previous reports alleged that the indirect talks between Tehran and Washington would likely resume in the Qatari capital following US President Joe Biden’s visit to the region in July.
Talks between Iran and the US came to an end in Qatar in late June with little progress, sources familiar with the two-day talks pointed the blame at Washington’s inflexibility to guarantee Iran’s economic benefit under the deal, Tasnim News Agency reported.
The talks were held between Iran’s lead negotiator and Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani and European Union’s Deputy Foreign Policy Chief Enrique Mora in the Qatari capital as part of a fresh round of negotiations to get back on track.
A US State Department spokesperson claimed: “While we are very grateful to the EU for its efforts, we are disappointed that Iran has, yet again, failed to respond positively to the EU’s initiative and therefore that no progress was made,” CNN reported.
The spokesperson went on to say that Iran “raised issues wholly unrelated to the JCPOA and apparently is not ready to make a fundamental decision on whether it wants to revive the deal or bury it.”
Slamming those arguments, Mohammad Marandi, an advisor to the Iranian negotiating team in Vienna, said that the Doha talks on discussing outstanding disputes over the nuclear accord have not “failed and the negotiations will continue.”
“Because of the Biden administration’s weakness and its inability to make a final decision, the Doha meeting, by now, was not effective in making progress in negotiations and the revival of the JCPOA,” the semi-official Tasnim News Agency wrote in late June.
“The Americans must provide the guarantees that Iran wants to make sure that they do not stab us in the back like in the past,” he added.