Iran and the remaining parties to a tattered nuclear deal resumed talks in Vienna after a five-month hiatus in a new push to resurrect the 2015 accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Negotiators from Iran, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain convened at the Palais Coburg, the hotel where the agreement was clinched six years ago.
Enrique Mora, the European Union’s political director, chaired the seventh round of discussions as the EU coordinates the talks within the framework of the JCPOA Joint Commission.
The last round was held in June. Since then, Iran’s new government has been reviewing the details of those talks before coming to the Austrian capital for the new round which it says focuses on the removal of US sanctions.
The United States, under former president Donald Trump, pulled out of the deal unilaterally in 2018 and reinstated and reinforced sanctions lifted by the JCPOA in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran’s top negotiator Ali Baqeri Kani said late Sunday that Iran has entered the talks with “serious willpower and strong preparation” to press for the removal of “illegal and cruel” sanctions.
However, he cautioned that “Iran cannot anticipate a timeframe on the length of these talks now”.
Iran wants all sanctions to be terminated in a verifiable fashion and that the administration of US President Joe Biden must give assurances that Washington won’t walk out of the deal again.
The US is not at the table but has a delegation, headed by the administration’s Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, at the venue of the talks. Diplomats from the other countries act as go-betweens for the US and Iran.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday that the multilateral talks will be “on the right track” if the US shows determination to resolve outstanding issues.
"If the United States comes to Vienna with the determination to break the deadlock and overcome the problems on which we did not agree in previous rounds, the path of dialogue will certainly be easier," Saeed Khatibzadeh told a weekly briefing in Tehran ahead of the talks.
Khatibzadeh added that Washington will “receive a ticket back to the JCPOA room” only if it lifts the sanctions.
"The government has shown its willingness and seriousness by sending a quality team known to all. If the other side shows the same willingness, we will be on the right track to reach an agreement."
Khatibzadeh noted that Iran “is looking for practical verification of the implementation of American commitments under the nuclear agreement".
He urged other participants in the Vienna talks to change their approach to achieve an immediate deal.
"If that happens, the results can be announced quickly."
The spokesman also criticized Britain after its Foreign Secretary Liz Truss pledged in a newspaper article co-written with Israel's Yair Lapid to work "night and day" to prevent Iran from “ever becoming a nuclear power”.
"At least some European countries are not coming to Vienna with the necessary will to lift sanctions," Khatibzadeh said.
"This shows that not only are some of these countries not serious, but they want to prolong the talks and delay the lifting of sanctions."
Russia ‘cautiously optimistic’
Russia’s top representative Mikhail Ulyanov said he held “useful” informal consultations with officials from Iran and China on Sunday. That meeting, he tweeted, was aimed at “better understanding… the updated negotiating position of Tehran.”
In Monday tweet, he said there is “no reasonable and acceptable alternative to a successful conclusion” of the talks.
“We are fully aware of all the problems at the Vienna talks but remain cautiously optimistic.”
Also on Monday, Ulyanov told IRNA that “achieving an agreement is possible in this round of negotiations”.
He warned that all parties taking part in the Vienna talks must try to move in a direction that would lead to the success of talks, because any other route would lead to disaster and have dangerous consequences, Press TV wrote.
“Therefore, it is our duty to avoid threats and negative consequences and overcome them, so that, negotiations will end in success,” he added.