Negotiators at the ongoing Vienna nuclear talks have decided to delay agreements until the elections take place.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani congratulated Iran’s newly-elected President Ebrahim Raisi on his win at Tehran’s latest presidential elections, the state news agency [QNA] reported on Saturday.
QNA reported that Deputy Amir Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Thani and Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani also congratulated the new president.
Sixty-year-old chief justice and cleric Raisi is set to take office in August to become the Islamic Republic’s next leader after Hassan Rouhani.
Raisi previously ran for president in 2017 against Rouhani.
News of his win came as no surprise given his strong relations with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has described Raisi as a “trustworthy and highly experienced” person.
The anticipated victory against the three other candidates—Abdolnaser Hemmati, Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, and Mohsen Rezaei—also came amid a low turnout of voters, with a reported total of 3.7 million invalid ballots, likely to have been blank or protest votes.
Responding to a question by Voice of America [VOA] on Saturday, a US State Department spokesperson expressed concerns over the election results.
“But [we] also make note that Iranians were denied their right to choose their own leaders in a free and fair electoral process.”
Nuclear deal talks
Raisi’s victory comes amid ongoing Vienna talks that are aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] following a US withdrawal from the deal by former Donald Trump Administration in 2018, which imposed sanctions that took a major toll on Iran’s economy.
However, representatives from the countries involved in the deal—France, the United Kingdom, China, and Germany—have decided to wait for the elections to take place before reaching an agreement.
Despite previously opposing the nuclear deal, Raisi expressed his support towards it throughout elections debates, promising to create a strong government that would effectively lead to its implementation.
“In the debates he [Raisi] has said he is in support of the nuclear negotiations, in the past he has not been supportive of them. So it’s really hard to tell, because it is his only seemingly shifting position,” Dr. Mehran Kamrava, Professor at Georgetown University in Qatar [GU-Q], told Doha News on Thursday.
Since April, the US and Iran have been holding indirect talks in Vienna in effort to return to the 2015 accord for the first time, in what is seen as a shift in Washington’s foreign policy since President Joe Biden came into power.
“It could very well be that a decision on the direction of the negotiations is made in the Supreme National Security Council and if that’s the case, then the president cannot necessarily shape the outcome of the negotiations. And what happens then as a result, is that this could be the reason Raisi is now saying he’s supportive of the negotiations,” said Dr. Kamrava, when asked about Raisi’s policy shift.
Raisi is also under US sanctions over human rights violations.
He has been accused in being involved in thousands of executions of political prisoners in 1988 as well as the crackdown on the 2009 Green Movement protests.
Deal ahead of August
While nuclear negotiators opted to avoid reaching any deal ahead of the Iranian elections, outgoing Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that a deal might be within reach before August.
“There is a good possibility that we will reach an agreement before the end of our tenure,” Zarif told Al Jazeera’s Sami Zeidan during a session of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum on Saturday.
“The talks are going on right now as we speak,” Zarif said in Turkey’s Antalya. “The text is getting cleaner and cleaner. The brackets are being removed,” he added smiling, without offering more details.
EU negotiators will be holding a formal meeting in Vienna on Sunday.
“The Joint Commission of #JCPOA will meet on Sunday, June 20. It will decide on the way ahead at the #ViennaTalks. An agreement on restoration of the nuclear deal is within reach but is not finalised yet,” tweeted Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s representative at the talks.