Latest JCPOA Meeting Signals Progress, Cautious Optimism

JCPOA’s Joint Commission wrapped up its third round of negotiations on the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria, on Saturday, with participants expressing “cautious optimism”. 
The delegates reviewed the work of the three expert groups on sanctions lifting, nuclear implementation and sequencing, and are expected to return to their capitals for consultations before meeting again on Friday, ISNA reported.  
Experts will also continue to draft elements of the agreement related to the above-mentioned issues.
According to the Russian envoy Mikhail Ulyanov, there is no deadline, but participants are working for the successful completion of talks in approximately three weeks.
The meeting was chaired by Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora and attended by representatives from France, Germany, Britain, Russia, China and Iran.
Iran’s top negotiator Abbas Araqchi said Iran will continue negotiating until all sides reach a common understanding and the Islamic Republic’s demands based on the country’s stated policy are satisfied.
“If our demands are met, there will be an agreement; if not, naturally there won’t be any,” he said.
As agreed in the previous meeting, the bilateral and multilateral discussions were pursued in a more intensified manner and the negotiating sides tried to minimize their differences on the text of draft documents. 
All sides agreed that the next round of the talks should gain further momentum and seriousness. 
Ulyanov said in a tweet that participants in the Saturday meeting noted the “indisputable progress” made at the Vienna talks.
He added that it is too early to be excited, but “we have reasons for cautious and growing optimism.”
Negotiations are aimed at reviving the nuclear, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which has been on shaky ground since the United States pulled out and restored sweeping sanctions on Tehran, forcing it to scale back its commitments in response. 
The US is not taking part in the Joint Commission meetings, but an American delegation is present in Vienna for informal talks with the other JCPOA members. 
Although both Iran and the US are ready to resume compliance, there are differences over what measures need to be taken by each side and in what order.
Two working groups of experts have been tasked with making a list of sanctions to be lifted by the US and nuclear measures to be implemented by Iran. A third groups is in charge of working out the sequence of these steps. 



Long Way Ahead

Ahead of the latest Joint Commission talks, Araqchi held separate meetings with Mora and the Russian representative. 
The Iranian and Russian sides discussed the latest developments and agreed to continue coordinating their stances.  
Ulyanov reiterated Moscow’s support for JCPOA and the need for the full removal of American sanctions. 
Russian President Vladimir Putin had also said on Friday that he expects the entire package of measures under JCPOA will be restored in the previous framework.
JCPOA participants also held informal consultations with the US delegation without Iran that refuses to engage in direct dialogue with American diplomats.
Representatives have described the talks as making progress, but maintain that there’s still a long way to go before an understanding is reached.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday that the negotiations are “in an unclear place” at this point.
"We've seen willingness of all sides … but it is still uncertain as to whether this will culminate in a deal in Vienna," he was quoted as saying by Reuters. 
US State Department Spokesman Ned Price also said on Thursday that some progress has been made, but “there’s still a great distance to travel”.
Nevertheless, two European sources have said that negotiators are working to restore the agreement in the middle of May, before a deadline agreed by Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency expires, according to Bloomberg.  
The sides made a deal in February that permits IAEA cameras installed at key facilities to record activities. Inspectors will only gain access to the material, if an accord is reached. Otherwise, Iran says it will erase the material.
One of the officials said the aim was to wrap up a deal at least several days before the May 22 deadline.
A person close to US State Department officials said that is ambitious, adding that an agreement by mid-June is more likely.

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