The first formal talks between Western powers and Iran’s new regime on how to restore the 2015 nuclear deal were suspended on Friday, with Europe warning that Iran had rolled back all previous diplomatic progress and rapidly accelerated its nuclear program.
It now appears that the talks could collapse next week if Iran does not modify its demands, potentially risking an attack on Iran by Israel.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Enrique Mora, said talks would resume next week, but cautioned that time was not infinite.
Diplomats representing the three European powers at the talks – Britain, France and Germany – said they were disappointed and concerned about the impasse.
“Tehran is reneging on almost all the difficult compromises that were forged after several months of hard work,” they said, adding that major changes have been demanded. More than five months ago, Iran halted negotiations. Since then, Iran has accelerated its nuclear program. This week, I rolled back the diplomatic progress that had been made.”
They said, “It is unclear how these new gaps can be filled in a realistic time frame based on Iranian drafts. We have asked the coordinator to meet again shortly.”
They said the purpose of the suspension was to “allow delegations to return to capitals to assess the situation and seek instructions”, before meeting again next week “to see if the gaps can be filled”.
“Our government remains fully committed to the diplomatic path forward,” the statement added. But time is running out.”
The new Iranian government, elected in June, has submitted revised documents on the sanctions the United States will be asked to lift, as well as new proposals on what Iran will be asked to do to return to full compliance with the deal.
A third paper was published on benchmarks – including levels of oil exports and foreign currency transactions – that had to be met before Iran judged sanctions effectively to have been lifted, but it has not been formally introduced.
EU diplomats said the proposals require the United States to lift some sanctions imposed by Joe Biden that are clearly unrelated to the nuclear deal, and thus represent a toughening of Iranian demands agreed upon in the previous six rounds of talks with the previous group of Iranian negotiators.
The West is likely to return to talks next Wednesday, but it has the option of referring Iran to the UN Security Council for breaching its commitments under the 2015 deal. It is possible that Iran would respond to such a signal by withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and refusing to join it unless Israel is asked. join.
Iran acknowledged that progress had been slow, adding that its proposals could not be rejected because they were in line with the 2015 agreement.
Israel, which was not involved in the talks, said its Western allies should realize that Iran was stumbling as it continued to develop its nuclear program.
Painstaking efforts to reopen talks about how the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear inspector, reached an agreement on operating its cameras at nuclear sites have made little progress, adding to the gloom.
Talks are taking place in Vienna between Iran, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. A US negotiating team is in Vienna but Iran is not allowing it to join the talks, on the grounds that Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018.
“We are negotiating a comprehensive agreement,” Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani said. We are negotiating a comprehensive agreement that paves the way for the return of a country that left the agreement. We seek the lifting of the unjust US sanctions.”
Mohamed Morandi, who was described as a member of the Iranian negotiating team but actually serves as a spokesperson for Western media, accused Biden of criticizing Trump’s policy of applying maximum pressure on Iran while continuing the same policy against Iran since taking office.
Besides direct talks in Vienna, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in an attempt to break the deadlock, but admitted that the Vienna talks were not successful.