April 15, 2021

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Iran and US begin indirect talks in Vienna to restore nuclear deal

An Austrian police officer stands in front of the Grand Hotel Wien where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place in Vienna - AP
An Austrian police officer stands in front of the Grand Hotel Wien where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place in Vienna – AP

Tehran and Washington began indirect talks in Vienna on Tuesday aimed at salvaging the nuclear deal, as a US delegation arrived in the Austrian capital where Iran and the five remaining signatories to the agreement were meeting.

While the two foes are not expected to meet directly, the talks are the most serious attempt yet to restore the 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers since former US president Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned it in 2018.

Since then the United States has reimposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran, as Tehran has progressively walked back from its own commitments under the accord by exceeding limits on its enriched uranium stockpiles and installing advanced centrifuges.

An immediate breakthrough is not expected, with Washington tempering expectations on Monday by saying it expects the talks to be difficult. Talks may continue through the week if progress is made.

US President Joe Biden made restoring diplomacy with Iran a campaign promise but says negotiations are required before it returns to the agreement.

Tehran has rejected direct negotiations with Washington about returning to the deal, while Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, has opposed a gradual easing of sanctions.

The indirect talks came as the five countries still in the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, were holding a European Union-chaired meeting at the Grand Grand Hotel Wien in the Austrian capital.

A US delegation headed by the administration’s special envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, was staying at a nearby venue.

Officials from Britain, France and Germany will act as go-between intermediaries.

China, which like Russia also sent representatives to Vienna, said on Tuesday that the US should act first as it abandoned the agreement first. “The US should return to the deal unconditionally, and lift all illegal sanctions against Iran and long-arm jurisdiction over a third party,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

The 2015 agreement, which was also reached in Vienna, lifted sanctions on Iran in return for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme to make it harder for it to develop an atomic bomb, something Iran says it has no wish to do.

Iran’s insistence on US sanctions being removed in a single step may may progress difficult, according to an EU official, who said working groups would be created with the aim of matching lists of sanctions that the United States could lift and nuclear obligations that Iran should meet.

Special envoy Mr Malley has suggested that progress may be incremental.

“This is going to involve discussions about identifying the steps that the US has to take and identifying the steps that Iran is going to have to take,” Mr Malley told NPR radio on Tuesday. “Because they’ve been increasingly in noncompliance with their nuclear commitments.”

But Tehran says it is incumbent on the US to prove its good will.

“We are confident that we are on the right track, and if America’s will, seriousness and honesty is proven, it could be a good sign for a better future for this agreement,” Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters.

Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s envoy to the United Nations and a former nuclear negotiator, likewise struck a cautiously positive note on Tuesday.

“The US has so far failed to honor @POTUS campaign promise to rejoin the JCPOA. So this opportunity shouldn’t be wasted. If US lifts all sanctions, Iran will then cease all remedial measures. Can be win-win situation for all,” he said on Twitter.

The EU official said that the aim is to reach some form of a deal before Iran’s presidential election in June.

The official, who asked not to be named, put the probability of concrete actions to restore the agreement before June at greater than 50 per cent.

Original News : https://news.yahoo.com/iran-us-begin-indirect-talks-141400669.html

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