Iran carries out annual military exercises
After nearly six months of hiatus, the new Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi has sent a top diplomatic delegation back to Vienna to continue negotiations to allow the US back into the agreement following its withdrawal by former President Donald Trump. However, tensions are running high as Iran has demanded the US lift all sanctions against Tehran prior to joining the talks, in what Iran claims must be “verifiable” proof of such actions. For its part, the US has demanded that Iran cease all nuclear activity prior to making any commitments.
The current standoff now suggests the prospect for a positive outcome on the talks may not be good as neither side wishes to “blink first” in challenging diplomatic negotiations.
Russia’s top negotiator, Mikhail Ulyanov, said hours before the meeting he remains “cautiously optimistic” despite being aware of the obstacles, as there are no better alternatives to restoring the landmark nuclear deal.
Representatives of Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the UK, the so-called P4+1 will lead the talks.
During the first day, participants are expected to agree on a general roadmap for the future of the negotiations, which are a continuation of six rounds of talks that paused in June to allow Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi to form his administration.
A tense standoff is taking place over the talks
The talks will be the sixth such round held in Vienna
Several informal meetings, including a trilateral meeting between Iran, China and Russia, and another between Iran’s top negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani and the European Union’s Enrique Mora, were held on Sunday to set up the main negotiations.
Israel is seeking to derail the talks, and have threatened to take military action against Iran’s civilian nuclear programme.
In a move that sends a clear warning to Tehran, the UK and Israel have announced a partnership in preventing Iran’s nuclear programme from advancing.
The UK and Israel’s foreign ministers have declared they will work “night and day” to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon as they sign a “historic” 10-year plan for deepening ties.
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Iran’s top negotiator Ali Baqeri arrives at the meeting in Vienna
Talks will take place between the P4 1 and exclude the US for now
Speaking of foreign interference, Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh said: “Western countries, in particular the US, work tirelessly to portray ‘negotiations’ as merely a process to restrict Iran’s legitimate and peaceful nuclear program, which is enshrined in international treaties and watched by oversight organizations.”
He added: “In this vein, we have two goals: the first is to gain a full, guaranteed and verifiable removal of the sanctions that have been imposed on the Iranian people. Without this, the process will continue indefinitely.”
Iran’s top negotiator also sent a strong warning surrounding Tehran’s patience and trust when it comes to the United States.
Ali Baqeri said: “We will be starting these new discussions under circumstances influenced by the unfortunate fate of the JCPOA when US President Donald Trump unilaterally decided to abandon this deal. This was a terrible betrayal of trust for Iran and Iranians.”
Mr Baqeri added: “From our experience, this is followed by actions to ‘hijack’ the JCPOA platform to force Iran to make more concessions in areas unrelated to the nuclear issue. As a result, the Iranian people trust neither the process nor its outcome.”
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Joe Biden’s administration has warned against Iran taking too much time to come to a deal.
Top Iran envoy from the US, Robert Malley said: “If Iran thinks it can use this time to build more leverage and then come back and say they want something better it simply won’t work. We and our partners won’t go for it.”
Warning of other options on the table, Mr Malley added: “If that’s Iran’s approach, which is to try to use the negotiations as a cover for an accelerated nuclear programme, and as I say, drag its feet at the nuclear table, we will have to respond in a way that is not our preference.”
Robert Malley, the US’s top Iran envoy
Hoping diplomacy succeeds, the envoy said: “We hope not to get that there, but if we are, then the pressure will have to increase to send a message to Iran that the choice it is making is the wrong one. That it has a different path available to it, but it’s not a path open indefinitely because Iran’s nuclear programme is putting the very essence of the deal negotiated (in 2015) at risk.”
With the talks set to continue into the week, diplomats have said Washington has suggested negotiating an open-ended interim accord with Tehran as long as a permanent deal is not achieved. Several Iranian officials have said Iran had no intention of accepting an interim deal.