March 7, 2022
Political decisions must be taken within days to end the indirect talks between Iran and the United States on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after 11 months, the talks’ coordinator, Enrique Mora of the European Union, said on Monday.
“Just to clarify. There are no longer “expert level talks.” Nor ‘formal meetings.’ It is time, in the next few days, for political decisions to end the #ViennaTalks . The rest is noise.”
The stakes are high. Should the talks collapse, it could carry the risk of Tehran getting to within a short sprint of nuclear weapons and igniting a fresh war in the Middle East. It could also see more harsh sanctions on Iran by the West and continued upward pressure on world oil prices already strained by the Ukraine conflict.
Iranian state news agency IRNA said chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani would return on Monday to Tehran for consultations, although he had indicated experts would remain.
European negotiators from France, Britain, and Germany had already temporarily left the talks as they believe they have gone as far as they can and it is now up to the two main protagonists to agree, diplomats said.
Oil prices hit their highest since 2008 on Monday amid market supply fears as the United States and European allies considered banning Russian oil imports and prospects for a swift return of Iranian crude to global markets receded.
‘TRYING IT ON’
Under the 2015 accord struck by the Islamic Republic and six major powers, Iran limited its nuclear program in return for relief from U.S., European Union and U.N. sanctions.
All parties involved in the talks, which also include China, say progress has been made towards restoring the pact to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. The 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), had fallen apart in 2018 when then President Donald Trump pulled out the United States.
Diplomats have told Reuters that several key issues still needed to be resolved in the talks, including the extent to which sanctions on Iran would be rolled back.
Iran’s top security official, Ali Shamkhani, called on Washington on Monday to make political decisions.
“Priority of Iranian negotiators is to resolve remaining issues that are considered (a) … red line. Rapid access to a strong deal requires new initiatives from all parties,” Shamkhani tweeted.
The talks were further complicated over the weekend when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow wanted a guarantee from the United States that its trade, investment and military-technical cooperation with Iran would not be hindered by sanctions imposed since it invaded Ukraine.
Western officials say there is a common interest in avoiding nuclear non-proliferation and are trying to ascertain if what Russia is demanding regards only its commitments to the Iran deal. That would be manageable, but anything beyond that would be problematic, they say.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Tehran would not allow “any foreign elements to undermine its national interests,” Iran’s state media reported on Monday. After speaking with Lavrov, he said Iran’s ties with any country, including Russia, should not be impacted by sanctions.