Russia sounded upbeat about ongoing talks in Vienna on salvaging the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, saying chances are “very high” for a breakthrough.
“I cannot guarantee that an agreement will be reached, but I believe that chances are very, very high as the main prerequisite for success is already there,” Russian envoy to the Vienna talks Mikhail Ulyanov told the American magazine Foreign Policy.
Iran and the remaining parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reconvened in the Austrian capital on Monday for an eighth round of talks aimed at revitalizing the pact by bringing back the US to compliance three years after its unilateral withdrawal.
Ulyanov said he is “rather optimistic at this stage” for a possible deal.
“I see no objective reasons for being skeptical.”
Iran’s top negotiator Ali Baqeri Kani on Wednesday met Enrique Mora, the chair of the Vienna talks who coordinates the discussions on behalf of the European Union, as expert-level meetings were held to hammer out the detail of an agreement.
Baqeri Kani also met representatives of France, Britain and Germany, which are parties to the JCPOA along with Russia and China.
Iran demands that all US sanctions be removed in a verifiable way before Washington reenter the pact. It also seeks assurances that the US government will not violate the deal again in the future with a unilateral pullout.
The European troika on Tuesday again pressed for urgency in a statement in which they accused Iran of escalating its nuclear program to a point that “will have completely hollowed out the JCPOA”.
They said while they were not setting an artificial deadline, there were weeks not months left to strike a deal, Reuters wrote.
The Russian negotiator played down “this sense of urgency”, saying it is “a little bit exaggerated.”
Ulyanov said now is not the time to threaten Iran with greater pressure.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Tuesday expressed optimism about the prospects for a “good deal”.
“The Vienna talks are headed in a good direction... We believe that if other parties continue the round of talks which just started with good faith, reaching a good deal for all parties is possible,” Amir-Abdollahian told reporters in Tehran.
“If they show seriousness, in addition to the good faith, arriving at a deal soon and in the near future is conceivable,” he added.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Ulyanov said he observed “indisputable progress.”
He said a working group had a “useful meeting” on nuclear issues and informal discussions on lifting sanctions.
“Sanctions lifting is being actively discussed in informal settings” in a working group at the talks, he said.
The United States said Tuesday it had seen possible progress in talks with Iran.
“There may have been some modest progress,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington, AFP reported.
“But it is in some ways too soon to say how substantive that progress may have been,” he said.
"We are now assessing, in the course of these talks.”
US negotiator Robert Malley is participating indirectly in the talks, with European diplomats shuttling between hotels, as Iran refuses direct contact with the US.
Mora said on Monday that all sides were showing “a clear will to work toward the successful end,” but that “very difficult” negotiations lay ahead.