Iran announced on Wednesday that it is preparing to resume negotiations on its nuclear program under the auspices of the European Union (EU) in Vienna, in a new attempt to save a moribund agreement.
“On the way to Vienna to discuss the return to the full application of the JCPOA,” tweeted the EU coordinator, Enrique Mora, referring to the acronym of the 2015 international agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Iranian chief negotiator Ali Bagheri will also attend the meeting. His team “will leave in a few hours,” Tehran’s foreign ministry said.
The emissary from the United States, Robert Malley, will also visit the Austrian capital.
Malley wrote on Twitter that his country’s expectations are low, but indicated that “the United States welcomes the efforts of the EU and is prepared in good faith to try to reach an agreement.”
The talks between Iran and the great powers, which began in April 2021 with the indirect participation of the United States, have been stalled since March.
In a last attempt, the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, presented a draft agreement on July 26 and asked the parties to accept it in order to avoid a “dangerous crisis”.
Later, Iran expressed “optimism” and Bagheri said he is “ready to conclude the negotiations in a short time.”
“In this round of talks … the ideas put forward by the participants, including those put forward this week by Iran to the other side, will be discussed,” ministry spokesman Naser Kanani said in a statement.
Asked by AFP, a European diplomat based in Vienna welcomed “a meeting that shows everyone’s will to move forward.”
“It is positive, but at the same time there is absolutely nothing guaranteed,” he warned. “We have been trying to conclude the negotiations for months.”
“Expectations are fairly modest for this new round of talks,” said Henry Rome, an Iran specialist at US consultancy Eurasia Group.
And he explained that there are still “differences” between the United States and Iran “on several key issues”: the sanctions that must be lifted, the demand for guarantees by Tehran and the closure of an investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the ONU.
According to Ali Vaez, from the conflict prevention organization International Crisis Group, the return to the negotiating table is now explained because “the other options are unattractive, so neither party is willing to bury the negotiations.”
The JCPOA was signed by Iran and six powers (Russia, the United States, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany) and aims to guarantee the civilian nature of the Iranian nuclear program, which is accused of wanting to acquire nuclear weapons despite their denials.
But after the unilateral withdrawal in 2018 of the United States under the government of Donald Trump and the reinstatement of US sanctions, Tehran has progressively disengaged from its obligations.
Iran has exceeded the 3.67% uranium enrichment rate set by the JCPOA, moving to 20% in early 2021.
It then surpassed the unprecedented 60% threshold, approaching the 90% needed to make a bomb, while limiting access to IAEA inspectors.
With information from AFP.