The US said it sees “no pathway” to returning to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran has rejected as “unconstructive” statements made during the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] summit’s final communique on Tehran’s nuclear activity and military role in the region.
This came a day after Gulf countries at the high-profile meeting condemned Iran’s nuclear advances, including uranium enrichment, which the bloc described as a “failure to adhere to its international commitments”.
The bloc also voiced its concern over Iran’s interference in Yemen’s domestic affairs by arming the Houthi rebels, noting it is a violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2216.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh described the statements as a “continuation of the unconstructive and wrong attitude that is held by some of the Council’s members”.
Khatibzadeh also dismissed any interference in Iran’s nuclear programme, maintaining that it is peaceful.
Citing Iran’s Press TV, Tehran Times reported on Saturday that Khatibzadeh pointed out that some members of the GCC were “hiding behind” the bloc in order to broadcast their anti-Iran rhetoric.
While Khatibzadeh made no mention of these countries, he described them as the same countries behind the continued war on Yemen as well as those seen to be warming to Israel.
“Unfortunately, the continuation of war in Yemen…and entry of destructive entity of the Zionist regime have endangered the security and stability of the region, and the Islamic Republic has announced has declared its concerns in this regard,” noted Khatibzadeh.
The statement hinted towards the UAE and Bahrain as they are the only countries in the region that have openly normalised with Israel through the signing of the Abraham Accords last year.
The statement also came amid what appears to be a split in the GCC countries’ stance vis-a-vis Iran.
Qatar has maintained its ties with Iran over the past years and previously offered to mediate between the latter and the US while saying that it would “spare no efforts” in restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].
While both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have had their own rivalries with Iran, the two Gulf states have appeared to start shifting their foreign policies.
This came after the 2017 GCC crisis was resolved earlier this year following the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration.
During the latest GCC crisis, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt launched an illegal land, air and sea blockade on Qatar over claims that is sponsors terrorism. Doha has vehemently denied those allegations.
The quartet claimed the move was due to Qatar’s relations with Iran and Turkey.
Since reconciling, Qatar has offered to mediate between Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran. On the other hand, it offered to mediate between Abu Dhabi, Tehran and Ankara.
Saudi Arabia and Iran held several rounds of talks over the past months, signaling warming ties between the two regional rivals. Senior UAE officials have also had recent meetings with Iranian diplomats.
Despite the statements made in the GCC summit, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan told a press conference in Riyadh that the kingdom remains interested in having normal ties with Iran.
“Our stance is clear. Our hands are stretched out to this [new Iranian] administration as they were to the previous one. We want to form normal relations with our neighbours in Iran,” said bin Farhan.
“But this requires that they should respond in the same way and that they extend their hands to us. They should look to the future and to relations based on cooperation, co-existence and mutual respect, not to activities that affect the region’s security and stability,” he added.
Meanwhile, Khatibzadeh said his country’s “principled position” is based on resolving regional issues on the basis of “interaction and cooperation”.
The Iranian official also welcomed initiatives that lead to resolving regional ties.
Vienna talks adjourn
The latest developments came amid indirect talks between the US and Iran over the revival of the JCPOA.
The seventh round of talks in Vienna kicked off on 29 November, attended by negotiators from the p4+1 – China, France, Russia, the UK plus Germany.
The talks initially started in the Austrian capital in April this year to revive the 2015 nuclear accord, but adjourned following the sixth round in June. They were put on hold as Iran’s elections took place, which saw the victory of Ebrahim Raisi.
The latest round adjourned over the weekend as negotiators are set to resume for an eighth round.
The seventh round of the #ViennaTalks was successful in a sense that it prepared sound basis for more intensive negotiations. It is fully confirmed that further work will be based on the results of the previous rounds. The negotiators now much better understand each other.
— Mikhail Ulyanov (@Amb_Ulyanov) December 17, 2021
“The seventh round of the Vienna Talks was successful in a sense that it prepared sound basis for more intensive negotiations. It is fully confirmed that further work will be based on the results of the previous rounds. The negotiators now much better understand each other,” said Russia’s representative at the talks Mikhail Ulyanov.
Despite such positive remarks, the US said it continues to see no “pathway back” to the JCPOA’s revival.
“It’s not going well in the sense that we do not yet have a pathway back,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday.
In 2018, former US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the JCPOA and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran in bid to apply “maximum pressure” on the country.
Despite unilaterally withdrawing from an accord that took years to reach, the US accused of Tehran of not abiding by its commitments under the JCPOA.
While the Iranian side has been demanding the lifting of sanctions, the Joe Biden administration has continued to impose additional punitive measures.