Iran’s chief negotiator said the third round of negotiations in Vienna to fully restore the 2015 nuclear agreement has approached certain “maturity” and “clarity” while there remains a lengthy and bumpy road ahead.
“I can say that the discussions have reached maturity, both on the issues that are contentious and the issues over which there is agreement,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi added on Saturday afternoon, after the conclusion of the third round of talks in the Austrian capital, Press TV reported.
This comes as representatives of Iran and the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed to continue the next round of Vienna talks with more speed and seriousness.
Saturday’s meeting began at the Grand Hotel in Vienna in the afternoon with the aim of summarizing the latest progress made during the talks that began early last month.
According to Iran's Foreign Ministry, participants in the Saturday meeting agreed that the delegations would return to their respective capitals to receive instructions and resume talks on Friday.
In recent days, expert negotiations were held within three working groups that were formed to resolve technical issues hampering a full restoration of the nuclear agreement, signed in July 2015 between Iran and the P5+1.
Bilateral and multilateral meetings were also held to exchange views and coordinate efforts aimed at reaching a consensus on the path forward.
Araqchi said the third round embodied “very intensive negotiations” at different levels and with diverse formats.
He said differences between the sides, as they dived into technical issues, have become clearer and more specific.
“We have specific subtle technical points and details on issues relating to [Iran’s] nuclear activities and the [US unilateral] sanctions, which need to be discussed,” he added.
The US has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Iran since the JCPOA went into effect in January 2016. Washington began to adopt what it called the “maximum pressure” policy against the Islamic Republic under former President Donald Trump after he withdrew from the nuclear accord in May 2018.
Iran argues that salvaging the JCPOA, which the US President Joe Biden’s administration has promised a return to, requires full and effective removal of all US sanctions imposed after the deal went into force. It says that only then, Tehran would reverse the “remedial measures” it has taken in response to the sanctions.
Araqchi explained that although it is not predictable when and how the two sides can reach an agreement on the full restoration of the 2015 pact, “the format of any agreement will be definitely in accordance with the [Iranian] establishment’s positions”.
He said the two sides are currently drafting texts over certain issues that they agreed upon.
“This is where things move ahead very slowly because drafting a text needs precision,” the senior diplomat added.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Araqchi said based on the agreements made so far, all of the sanctions that targeted specific sectors, such as energy, finance, banking and insurance sectors, must be removed.
But talks are ongoing about a long list of individuals and institutions that have been put on the sanctions list, he said, adding that Iran seeks their removal from the list as well.
‘Success not impossible’
Meanwhile, senior European diplomats said in a statement that the talks have not progressed as much as they expected.
“We have much work, and little time, left. Against that background, we would have hoped for more progress this week,” the diplomats said, according to Reuters.
“We have yet to come to an understanding on the most critical points. Success is by no means guaranteed, but not impossible,” they added.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s top negotiator at the talks, said the sides should not expect breakthroughs in the coming days.
“We need simply to continue diplomatic, day-to-day work, and we have all the reasons to expect that the outcome, (the) final outcome, will be successful and it will come quite soon, in a few weeks,” Ulyanov told reporters after the meeting.
In a tweet following the meeting, he talked of "indisputable progress" made at the negotiations.
Ulyanov also said that the JCPOA Joint Commission will reconvene at the end of the next week while "experts will continue to draft elements of future agreement”.
The US is not negotiating directly with Iran, but is participating in the discussions led by the other parties to the treaty.