The latest tensions could potentially risk the resumption of indirect Iran-US talks regarding the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The United States called on Iran to stop denying the UN nuclear watchdog access to its “centrifuge parts making workshop” or face diplomatic retaliation within days, Reuters reported on Monday.
It's deeply regrettable that after 3 terrorist attacks in Iran's nuclear facilities during past 1 year, the Agency has not yet condemned them, as it is required to do so by GC & GA resolutions and even for the sake of its own equipment, safety and security of its inspectors.1
— Gharibabadi (@Gharibabadi) September 26, 2021
However, the European Union stressed that Iran’s failure to grant the IAEA access to the workshop was “a worrying development, contrary to the Joint Statement reached on 12 September 2021.”
Nuclear Deal: will hope be lost?
The latest escalations could potentially end efforts to resume indirect talks.
Last April, indirect US-Iran talks in Vienna kicked off in efforts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] following Washington’s withdrawal, with both sides expressing their readiness to restore the accord.
The last round of talks in Vienna took place on 20 June, with reports suggesting diplomats would return to the negotiating table following President Ebrahim Raisi’s inauguration.
Nearly two months on, the talks have yet to resume.
The US withdrew from the accord in 2018 under the former Donald Trump administration to apply “maximum pressure” on Iran, imposing crippling sanctions on the country and triggering heightened tensions between the two countries.
With the new Joe Biden administration in office, hopes for Washington to re-enter the deal have remained high.
However, attacks on Iran’s nuclear site and a lack of US commitment to its part of the deal – lifting the sanctions – drove Tehran to retaliate. Soon after, Iran increased its nuclear enrichment to 60% – its highest level so far.
Hopes reemerged recently after Iran reached an agreement with the UN’s nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] to monitor its nuclear facilities.
On Saturday, Iran’s newly-appointed foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the talks would resume “very soon” without providing further details.
Raisi echoed previous statements in which he said Iran believes the talks can only be useful if they lead to the lifting of crippling sanctions.
“We don’t trust the promises made by the US government,” said Raisi.
Meanwhile, Qatar has been stressing the importance of a swift return to negotiations while offering to mediate between the US and Iran.
“We want a quiet region. We hold consultations with Iran and keep our channels open with Tehran. We do not want to see a nuclear race in the region,” said Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in an interview with the US Council on Foreign Relations [CFR].
Speaking at the 76th UN General Assembly [UNGA] in New York on Tuesday, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani also highlighted the importance of returning to the 2015 nuclear deal.
“There is no solution to differences and differences in views with Iran except through rational dialogue on the basis of mutual respect, and this applies to the issue of returning to the nuclear agreement with Iran,” said Sheikh Tamim.