Hopes for progress in the negotiations to revive the Iranian nuclear deal were shaken by Tehran’s refusal to meet US officials in Vienna next week. After years of mistrust, the aim is to resume negotiations and the resumption of the agreement remains on the horizon.
The delegations of Iran and the countries remaining in the agreement signed in 2015 (United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia) will meet next week in the Austrian capital to discuss the next steps for the agreement to remain in force. The possibility of including representatives of the American government was on the table, but the Iranian representatives rejected the hypothesis.
“The United States will not attend any meeting that Iran is attending, including those of the Joint Commission [do acordo nuclear]and that’s for sure, ”said Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi in a statement quoted by Reuters on the ministry’s website. Araqchi added that no bilateral meeting involving the United States and the other delegations is excluded, but never with an Iranian presence.
The Iranian rejection shatters the expectation that has arisen in recent weeks that the United States and Iran could return to the negotiating table after years with their backs under the Donald Trump administration. In 2018, Trump unilaterally severed ties between Washington and several sanctions against the Iranian regime.
The lifting of sanctions and the possibility of expanding oil exports to other countries were the offers that led Tehran to agree in 2015 to limit uranium enrichment and to allow inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The regime has always denied its ambition to develop nuclear weapons, claiming that its program is for civilian purposes only. After the agreement was voided, Iran re-enriched uranium to a prohibited level.
US President Joe Biden, who served as Vice President of the government that negotiated the deal in 2015, has already stated that he intends to resume negotiations on a possible US return to the deal and will hold meetings this week in Vienna will be seen as crucial for this to happen.
On Thursday, a statement by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell confirmed that next week’s meeting would discuss “the US’s possible return to the nuclear deal” and ways to “fully and effectively implement” its terms.
On the same day, US State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed Washington’s readiness to resume “the commitments contained in the JCPOA [acrónimo do acordo nuclear]when you consider that Iran will too ”.
If the Vienna meeting does not have a face-to-face meeting between the Iranian and American delegations, it could be used to measure the temperature and assess what needs to be done to overcome the distrust caused by the Trump years.
One hypothesis is that the European members of the deal will bridge the Washington-Tehran gap – shortly after Trump abandoned the deal, it was France, Germany and the UK who tried to keep Iran within its terms, albeit to no avail in the past.
This Friday, Ned Price tried to lower expectations and said resumption of negotiations was premature. “These are still early days and we don’t want to expect immediate progress as difficult discussions are ahead. However, we believe this is a healthy step forward, ”said the spokesman.
Price did not want to foresee the possibility of direct talks between the United States and Iran, but said Washington remains open to it.
The Vienna meeting is expected to assess what steps Tehran should take to return to the uranium enrichment levels envisaged in the agreement, and a roadmap for US sanctions easing to be drawn up.
Biden has been criticized by some Democratic Congressmen who accuse him of devaluing the Iran nuclear deal resumption in an attempt to please Republicans in the name of speeding up legislation in Congress, the Guardian says.
If you postpone a return of the agreement, you may be at risk again. The Iranian presidential elections in June could lead to victory the regime’s hard line, which is very critical of the limits of the nuclear program and is another obstacle to the negotiations.