The New Zealand Herald
Talks to revive nuclear deal ‘constructive’, Iran says
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator said talks in Vienna aimed at salvaging its nuclear deal with world powers had a “constructive” start yesterday, after a US delegation arrived in the Austrian capital where Iran and the five remaining signatories to the agreement were meeting.
Abbas Araghchi told Iranian state television that the talks, which indirectly involve the United States, will continue on Saturday.
Though the delegations from Tehran and Washington are not expected to meet face to face, the talks are the most serious attempt yet to restore the 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers since former US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned it in 2018.
The Trump Administration then reimposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran, as Tehran has progressively walked back from its own commitments under the accord by exceeding limits on its enriched uranium stockpiles and installing advanced centrifuges.
An immediate breakthrough is not expected, with Tehran rejecting direct negotiations with Washington and insisting that sanctions must be lifted entirely before it returns to compliance.
Araghchi said Iran rejected a proposal to suspend enriching uranium to 20 per cent purity in return for unfreezing US$9.6 billion ($13.7b) of its assets blocked in other countries due to the sanctions.
While US President Joe Biden made restoring diplomacy with Iran a campaign promise, his administration says negotiations are required before it returns to the agreement.
The indirect talks come as the five countries still in the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, were holding a scheduled European Union-chaired meeting at the Grand Hotel Wien in the Austrian capital. The 2015 agreement lifted sanctions on Iran in return for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme to make it harder for it to develop an atomic bomb, something Iran says it has no wish to do.
Special envoy Robert Malley has suggested that progress may be incremental.
“This is going to involve discussions about identifying the steps that the US has to take and identifying the steps that Iran is going to have to take,” Malley told NPR radio yesterday.
But Tehran says it is down to the US to prove its goodwill.
“We are confident we are on the right track, and if America’s will, seriousness and honesty is proven, it could be a good sign for a better future for this agreement,” said Ali Rabie, Iran’s government spokesman.