Iran’s deputy Foreign Minister Reza Najafi and its Geneva ambassador to the UN left Vienna for Iran Tuesday, Iran International reports, as nuclear talks ended.
This was a day after Ali Bagheri-Kani, Iran’s lead negotiator, left the Vienna nuclear talks and returned to Tehran for consultations. The other senior members of the Iranian team leaving the Austrian capital signaled the talks were over and that all parties now awaited decisions by politicians over reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
Enrique Mora, the senior European Union official chairing the Vienna talks, tweeted Monday: “There are no longer expert level talks nor formal meetings…It is time, in the next few days, for political decisions to end the Vienna talks. The rest is noise.”
“We are very close to an agreement − it is essential we conclude while we still can,” French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre told reporters in a daily briefing Tuesday. “We are concerned by the risks that further delays could weigh on the possibility of concluding.”
William Burns, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency who played a central role in negotiations leading to the JCPOA in 2015, said success in reviving it would mark a “new era in our approach to Iran’s nuclear program.”
Raisi: red lines
Iran’s official news agency IRNA confirmed Tuesday there were no topics left to be discussed in Vienna, where Iran and six world powers have aimed to revive the JCPOA, and that all sides awaited decisions in Washington, Paris, London, and Berlin that could lead to an agreement within a few days.
Tehran has said it wants lifted all US sanctions incompatible with the JCPOA, including those introduced under other topics such as terror, violations of existing sanctions or human rights violations. It also wants guarantees that Washington would not again abandon the agreement, as it did in 2018.
“We have not retreated and will never retreat from any of the [country’s] red lines,” President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) said Tuesday. “In the first step, the administration has seriously pursued neutralizing the sanctions and, in the second step, it seeks the removal of the sanctions during the negotiations in full dignity.”
On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Iran agreed with Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister over his suggestion Saturday that any sanctions against Russia over Ukraine should not affect Russia’s ties with Iran. Russia is also expected to play a central role, especially in removing Iran’s enriched uranium stockpiles above JCPOA limits.
Blinken: shared interests
Some analysts in Iran have detected a Russian trap, while a French presidential official warned of Russian blackmail. But emphasizing the shared interest of the US and Russia in reviving the JCPOA, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Estonia on Tuesday that Russia had an interest in blocking any possible Iranian path to a nuclear weapon.
“We continue to work to see if we can come back to mutual compliance with Iran on the deal,” Blinken said. “Russia continues to be engaged in those efforts and it has its own interest in ensuring that Iran is not able to acquire a nuclear weapon.”