Talks between Iran and other members of the 2015 nuclear deal appeared to be reaching a “critical stage”, with delegates holding bilateral and multilateral meetings in Vienna to patch up differences for the revival of the troubled accord, known as the JCPOA.
Iran’s lead negotiator Ali Baqeri Kani met separately Russian and Chinese representatives to the Vienna talks as well as diplomats of the three European signatories of the agreement – France, Britain and Germany – and Enrique Morra, the European Union’s political director who chairs JCPOA talks.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s chief negotiator and ambassador to International Organizations in Vienna, tweeted on Tuesday that the Vienna talks are being held in “varying geometry”.
In another tweet, Ulyanov said during his meeting with Baqeri Kani on Monday, they “changed views and assessments on the whole spectrum of contentious issue”.
The Vienna talks aim to resuscitate the JCPOA by bringing the United States back to compliance with the deal almost four years after its unilateral withdrawal that was followed by the reimposition of sanctions on Iran.
The pullout under former US president Donald Trump prompted Iran in 2019 to drop key aspects of its JCPOA commitments in retaliation. Now his successor Joe Biden seeks to reenter the nuclear agreement.
China’s chief negotiator Wang Qun said his country supports Iran’s logical demands on its nuclear program.
“China firmly backs Iran on its logical demands on nuclear activities,” Wang told reporters after his lengthy meeting with Baqeri Kani on Monday.
Iran wants the Biden administration to give assurances that future governments will not violate the multilateral agreement again. Tehran also demands that all those sanctions be removed “effectively, practically and verifiably” after the JCPOA is restored.
In an interview with Al Jazeera news channel published on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian reiterated that the talks are heading in the right direction but noted that the Western side’s foot-dragging in returning to its JCPOA obligations is prolonging the negotiations.
“The talks are in their right direction… if they (the Western side) really have serious intentions and will, we can reach a good agreement,” Amir-Abdollahian said, adding that a good deal means that all parties are satisfied with.
The top diplomat, however, said Iran has yet to see “serious willpower” from the US and three European parties.
“We do not yet see new initiatives from the West… They do not seem ready to return to their commitments quickly, so we feel that the West is still dragging its feet,” he said.
Amir-Abdollahian stressed that a deal is struck once the West fully complies with its JCPOA commitments.
Talks have gained momentum
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday that the Vienna talks have "picked up speed" and the chances of reaching a solution have increased.
“The Vienna talks have gained momentum. We believe that the chances of reaching a solution… have increased. This is a positive moment. All parties are showing readiness to find a solution to the remaining problems, "Ryabkov told reporters in Geneva, according to TASS.
He said "various schemes” can be thought of for the ultimate goal that is to implement the JCPOA in the original parameters.
But he emphasized that “hypothetical intermediate steps are not a replacement, not a substitution, not an alternative to the basic agreement”.
Ryabkov also rejected the idea of setting deadlines for reaching a final deal.
"Under the conditions of artificial time pressure, we will not achieve anything… We cannot put any time limiters at all. We just need a quick move forward," he said.