Date set for resumption of Iran nuclear talks

That deal collapsed in 2018 when the US pulled out and President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions, and Iran responded by breaching the deal’s restrictions on its enrichment of uranium.

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JEDDAH: Talks aimed at reviving the collapsed Iran nuclear deal will resume this week, two Iranian members of parliament said on Sunday.

After a private meeting with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, MP Ahmad Alirezabeigui said “talks with the 4+1 Group will restart on Thursday in Brussels.” Another Iranian MP, Behrouz Mohebbi Najmabadi, said negotiations would resume “this week.”

The 4+1 Group consists of four UN Security Council permanent members — Britain, China, France and Russia — and Germany. They began negotiations with Iran in Vienna in April over reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the agreement with world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions.

That deal collapsed in 2018 when the US pulled out and President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions, and Iran responded by breaching the deal’s restrictions on its enrichment of uranium.

Trump’s successor Joe Biden is keen to revive the deal and the US is taking part indirectly in the Vienna talks. However, discussions have been suspended since June in a stalemate over who concedes first — Iran by complying with the agreement, or the US by lifting sanctions. US allies in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, are also concerned that the agreement fails to address wider issues such as Iran’s ballistic missiles and its malign regional activities.

EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said at the weekend he was ready to meet Iranian leaders. “The goal remains to resume negotiations in Vienna as quickly as possible,” his spokesman said.

Earlier, The EU envoy charged with coordinating talks on reviving a troubled nuclear deal between Iran and major powers is to visit Tehran on Thursday, the Iranian foreign ministry said.

Enrique Mora’s visit “is a follow-up to consultations between the two sides on matters of shared interest, particularly Iran-EU relations, Afghanistan and the nuclear agreement,” a ministry statement said.

The deal, which gave Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program, has been on life support since 2018, when then US president Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out and reimposed crippling sanctions.

Mora’s trip to Tehran comes amid mounting pressure from EU countries as well as the United States for a swift resumption of talks on Washington’s return to the agreement.

“The message to Iran is unequivocal: return to the negotiating table immediately,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Israel on Sunday.

Tehran has been seeking European guarantees that there will be no repetition of Trump’s unilateral withdrawal.

“The European capitals, including Berlin … must give their clear assurance to the Islamic republic that this time, no party will violate the nuclear deal,” foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters on Monday.

US President Joe Biden has signalled a willingness to return to the deal, but his Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned earlier this month that time was running out and the ball was in Iran’s court.

Talks in Vienna between Iran and the remaining parties to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have been on hold since a June election in Iran led to a change of president.

New President Ebrahim Raisi — an ultraconservative former judiciary chief — is thought to be less ready than his predecessor Hassan Rouhani to make concessions to the West for the sake of a deal.

Iran has said repeatedly that it is ready to resume talks “soon” but no date has yet been announced.

Tehran gradually rolled back its own nuclear commitments in response to the US pullout, and Washington has been demanding that it return to its obligations too.

Mora attended Raisi’s inauguration in August, drawing criticism of the EU from Israel, a fierce critic of the nuclear deal with its arch foe Iran.

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