Iran and the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear deal are set to reconvene in Vienna Thursday to resume talks on the revival of the tattered agreement as the United States imposed new sanctions on Iran that could be seen as a “wrench” thrown into the process.
Enrique Mora, the European Union’s political director, who coordinates the Vienna talks, said on Wednesday that diplomats will take part in a meeting of the Joint Commission of the nuclear deal, which is officially called the JCPOA – and make “a number of bilateral and multilateral contacts”.
The new round of discussions between Iran and Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – known as the P4+1 – comes after Iranian negotiators brought forward two sets of proposals on how to remove US sanctions that were imposed on Tehran in the aftermath of Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the pact in 2018 and how the Islamic Republic would roll back its nuclear activities within the terms of the 2015 agreement.
Iran’s top negotiators Ali Baqeri Kani said Tuesday that the draft proposals can be a basis to “direct the course of the talks toward progress”.
He said the wide-ranging proposals were “based on the documents that both Iran and other parties agreed upon” during the six previous rounds held earlier this year.
However, the United States and the three European countries called the drafts unacceptable and urged Iran to return to Vienna with “realistic proposals”.
France on Tuesday said the proposals “do not constitute a reasonable basis that is compatible with the objective of a rapid conclusion”.
The French Foreign Ministry warned that “time is running out” to revitalize the JCPOA which has been moribund since former US president Donald Trump walked out of it three years ago.
But Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian denied that the proposals are “maximalist,” saying they are “fully in line with the JCPOA”.
British Foreign Minister Liz Truss on Wednesday called on Iran not lose "the last chance" to “sign up” to the JCPOA.
A day earlier, Amir-Abdollahian issued a similar warning to the US and the Europeans when he advised them to take note that the current window of negotiations “will not be open forever”.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, whose country seeks to rejoin the JCPOA under President Joe Biden, accused Iran on Tuesday of showing “a lack of seriousness” at the negotiating table.
“The ball is in Iran’s court as to whether it wants to show up and demonstrate that it’s going to be serious or not,” he said.
Iran ‘serious enough’ for talks
The Iranian foreign minister already stressed that Iran’s negotiating team has “a serious attitude” and is determined to make the negotiations successful by “restoring the rights of the Iranian people and having the sanctions lifted”.
Masoumeh Poursadeqi, a political analyst, echoed a similar view as she told Iran Daily on Wednesday that Tehran demonstrated “enough seriousness” for a “good deal” by presenting comprehensive proposals to the opposing side.
“But the Americans and Europeans seem to live up to their obligations under the JCPOA in a minimalist way while expect Iran to demonstrate a maximalist commitment to the deal,” Poursadeqi said.
For Iran, the main goal of the Vienna talks is “the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA” through the removal of “the illegal American sanctions”.
Amir-Abdollahian warned that there was “no way” for the United States to reenter the 2015 deal without removing its sanctions.
Russia’s top negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov adopted a positive tone about the seriousness of both Iran and the US on the restoration of the JCPOA.
“Our contacts with the US and Iran at the Vienna talks prove that both sides are very serious about restoration of JCPOA but their visions of relevant ways and means differ,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
Ulyanov urged negotiators to help “overcome these differences” through “unity of purpose”.
Sanctions won’t give US ‘leverage’
The new round of talks is about to recommence as the US ramped up pressure on Iran on Tuesday by imposing new sanctions against Iranian individuals and four organizations.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman slammed the move, saying “doubling down on sanctions won't create leverage” for the US in the course of the talks between Iran and the P4+1.
Saeed Khatibzadeh urged the US to “understand that ‘maximum failure’ and a diplomatic breakthrough are mutually exclusive”.
“The new US sanctions are deemed detrimental to the course of negotiations,” Poursadeqi told Iran Daily.
Iran has time and again stressed that it won’t yield to pressure and that “talks under the shadow of threats” are futile.
“We negotiate under the shadow of threats! As if a sword is held over our heads! No way! The Iranian nation does not tolerate talks under the shadow of threats,” Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has said.