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Iranian nuclear negotiations between optimism, intransigence and threat

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Diplomats stress that time is running out to resuscitate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), negotiated hard by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the European Union and Germany , then torpedoed in 2018 by the withdrawal of the United States.

Delegates from the European Union, Iran and Russia were optimistic after this first meeting, which took place without the United States, with which Iran refuses to negotiate directly.

I am extremely happy with what I saw today.

A quote from Enrique Mora, coordinator of the European Union

This is the seventh round of negotiations to revive a deal under which Iran curtailed its uranium enrichment program in return for relief from economic sanctions imposed by the United States, theEU and the UN.

Enrique Mora told reporters that the new Iranian delegation has upheld its demand for the lifting of all sanctions. But he also hinted that Tehran had not rejected outright the results of the previous six rounds of negotiations, which took place between April and June.

They accepted that the work done in the first six cycles provides a good basis for building our future work. We will of course integrate the new political sensitivities of the new Iranian administration.

A quote from Enrique Mora, coordinator of the European Union

The Vienna meeting ended a long frozen hiatus with the election of ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raïssi as Iranian president. The talks are in fact indirect negotiations between Tehran and Washington, as diplomats commute between the two delegations.

Tehran’s negotiating team, however, made demands that U.S. and European diplomats see as unrealistic, Western diplomats say.

Iran’s intransigence

Iran has taken a tough stance in demanding the removal of all US and EU sanctions imposed since 2017, including those unrelated to its nuclear program.

Iran’s top negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani also said the United States and its Western allies must offer guarantees that no new sanctions will be imposed in the future.

That all parties at the meeting accepted Iran’s request that the issue of illegal and unjust sanctions imposed by the United States be resolved first, and then we discuss the other issues and that we made a decision about them, is a major step forward.

A quote from Ali Bagheri Kani, main Iranian negotiator

In a phone call, French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday urged his Iranian counterpart to engage constructively in the talks to enable a swift return to the deal and to keep Iran’s commitments to it. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the Elysee in a press release. The United States, for its part, has said its goal is to see Iran fully comply with the 2015 agreement, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

United States ready to step up the pressure

At the same time, the conflict between the Islamic Republic and the IAEA, supposed to monitor Tehran’s nuclear activities, has escalated. Iran continues to enrich uranium to thresholds prohibited by the JCPOA, and the IAEA blames Iran for the treatment of its inspectors or the need to reconnect the surveillance cameras it deems essential to reactivation of the pact.

If Iran thinks it can take advantage of this delay to equip itself with more means to negotiate before coming back and saying it wants something better, that won’t work. We and our partners will not work.

A quote from Robert Malley, American envoy

The United States will be ready to step up pressure on Iran if the talks fail, he warned.

One of the scenarios envisaged by Washington would be, according to diplomats, to negotiate with Tehran an interim agreement without deadline which would be valid until the conclusion of a permanent agreement.

Failure to agree could also provoke a reaction from Israel, which does not rule out military intervention against Iran’s nuclear program.

Negotiations cannot go on forever. There is a clear need to speed up the process.

A quote from Mikhail Ulyanov, Russian envoy
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