Washington Not Pessimistic on Efforts to Revive Iran Deal

Washington Not Pessimistic on Efforts to Revive Iran Deal
Washington Not Pessimistic on Efforts to Revive Iran Deal

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday that Washington is not pessimistic, but simply “clear-eyed” about a new round of talks with Iran about restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
As Iran prepares to return to Vienna, Austria, for a seventh round of talks with the US on returning to the nuclear deal that was supposed to ease economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic, the US is posturing in favor of a more stringent deal than that agreed to in 2015.
The talks will be the first since Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi took office in August. He said on Monday that the nuclear talks should be “result-oriented” and must have tangible results for Iran, such as the lifting of US sanctions that have strangled the country’s economy and amplified the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The US pulled out of the deal in 2018, with then-US president Donald Trump claiming Iran was secretly violating the deal and reimposing sanctions, although the deal’s other parties were unconvinced by US claims. Nonetheless, Iran began reducing its own commitments to the deal, producing more refined uranium in higher purities, in an effort to convince Washington to return to the deal and remove sanctions. 
Speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier this month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken contended that because of “what Iran is doing with its nuclear program ... we are getting closer and closer to a point where simply returning to compliance with the JCPOA won’t recapture the benefits of the agreement.”
Price also said that “the destination [for the next round of the nuclear talks] we seek is in Vienna, not an intermediate step in Brussels,” Sputnik reported.
Meanwhile, the European Union on Monday played down the prospect of serious talks on Iran’s nuclear program outside the framework of negotiations between world powers and Iran in Vienna.
A senior EU official said last week Iran was not ready yet to return to actual talks with world powers over reviving its 2015 nuclear program and related US sanctions but could discuss with the EU in Brussels texts from when negotiations ended in June.
Reports in Iranian media on Sunday had suggested a possible meeting on Thursday in Brussels.



No Concrete Agenda 

After initially suggesting optimism that preparatory talks in the Belgian capital could take place soon, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday evening that there was nothing concrete and definitely no discussions on Thursday.
He said he was open to clarifying Iranian doubts about the Vienna talks in any format, but that serious talks would happen in the Austrian capital. He said Iranian officials had requested bilateral meetings with him and other parties to the deal, although the wish was not “precise”.
“We made it clear to the Iranians that time is not on their side and it’s better to go back to the negotiating table quickly,” he asserted. 
Western diplomats have said they are concerned Tehran’s new negotiating team may make demands beyond the scope of what had already been agreed.
Some also fear Iran is seeking to gain time and leverage by talking to the EU, which coordinates the talks, rather than all the parties to the deal, namely France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China and indirectly the United States.
EU political director Enrique Mora, the chief coordinator, was in Tehran last Thursday to meet Iran’s new nuclear negotiating team, four months after talks broke off between Iran and world powers as Ebrahim Raeisi was elected Iranian president.
The Iranian government has so far refused to resume indirect talks with the United States in Vienna on both sides returning to compliance with the deal, under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for economic sanctions relief.
Hinting at frustration in Paris, foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre told reporters that France had not been informed of any meeting in Brussels later this week and insisted that any such meeting could not be instead of negotiations in Vienna.
“These exchanges cannot replace the negotiations in Vienna with the other participants in the JCPOA and the United States,” she told reporters, according to Reuters.

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