Progress in sixth round of Iran nuclear deal talks in Vienna
Some diplomats express concern about election of hardliner Iranian president, make vague statements about progress as they return home
Senior diplomats from China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany and the European Union who met with Iranian officials apparently made progress in a sixth round of talks this week on the Iranian nuclear deal.
The meeting, held in the Austrian capital of Vienna, marked the first official negotiations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) deal since Iran’s hardline judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected president last Friday.
“Today we have reached a clear text in the Vienna negotiations, and we are waiting for a political decision from the American side,” said Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei in a press briefing Tuesday morning.
In 2018, former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal saying it rewarded the aggressive policies of Iran’s regime throughout the Middle East. Instead, Trump placed heavy sanctions on the regime.
His successor, U.S. President Joe Biden, has long expressed a desire to return to the nuclear deal and the U.S. has been indirectly negotiating its way back in already.
Iranian deputy foreign minister for political affairs, Seyed Abbas Araghchi, told Iranian media that he expects most of the individual sanctions to be lifted and that almost all JCPOA documents had been readily negotiated.
“Of the main issues that remain disputed, some have been resolved and some remain, but it has taken on a very precise form and it is quite clear what the dimensions of these disputes are,” he added.
Araghchi claimed that the global power diplomats would be returning to their home countries for further consultations with their governments and for final decision-making.
According to several diplomats who participated in the talks, there was progress made during the discussions, but responses were vague.
“No one knows when the next round of negotiations will resume,” said Russian envoy, Mikhail Ulyanov, in an interview. Russian representatives confirmed it will take another two weeks before a final draft is completed, and there have been many deletions over the past two days.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, referring to the incoming Iranian President Raisi, warned the global powers to not go forward with the deal when he said the JCPOA is “the last chance for the world powers to wake up before returning to the nuclear agreement and to understand who they’re doing business with.”
“These guys are murderers, mass murderers,” Bennett said. “A regime of brutal hangmen must never be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction that will enable it to not kill thousands, but millions.”
Raisi, also known as the Hangman of Tehran, is the first Iranian president elected to have been sanctioned by the U.S. government for his involvement in the 1988 mass executions, when he was chief of Iran’s judiciary committee.
Israel has long worked to thwart Iran’s nuclear program, even prior to Raisi’s victory. Earlier this month, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tasked David Barnea, the new head of the Mossad, to “do everything” to stop Iran from going nuclear. Netanyahu at the time said he would rather have “friction” with the United States than allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
The essence of the original JCPOA was for Iran to rein in its nuclear program and make it harder for the Islamic regime to obtain certain materials used for building nuclear weapons, in return for relief from sanctions from the U.S., UK and the UN.
The JCPOA was originally signed on July 14, 2015, between the Iranian regime and then-five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, as well as Germany and the European Union.
The JCPOA required Iran to agree to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98%, and reduce the number of its gas centrifuges by about two-thirds for 13 years. To monitor and verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) was to be given regular access to all Iranian nuclear facilities.
In return for abiding by its commitments, Iran was to receive nuclear-related sanctions relief from the U.S., EU, and the UN Security Council . In July 2019, Iran made an announcement which the IAEA confirmed – that Iran had breached the limit set on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.