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Friday, July 23, 2021

No conclusions expected in Vienna this week, top Iran negotiator says

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The US lifted some sanctions on three former Iranian government officials on Thursday.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said it is unlikely to reach a conclusion at the Vienna nuclear talks ahead of the June 18th presidential elections.

“Personally, I don’t think that we can manage to reach a conclusion this week,” Araqchi told Iran’s state broadcaster after the sixth round of talks resumed in Vienna on Saturday.

Commenting on remarks made by the Iranian official, Russia’s top representative at the Vienna talks Mikhail Ulyanov said that while he agrees that a decision cannot be finalised prior the elections, an agreement is “within reach”.

“We need a couple more weeks to clean up the existing text & to remove square brackets around secondary topics. We need to concentrate on how the deal will be implemented,” Ulyanov told reporters on Saturday.

EU representative at the talks Alain Matton also told reporters in Vienna that the bloc will continue with the talks with all the participants involved with hopes to reach a deal.

US sanctions

Earlier on Thursday, the US announced it had lifted sanctions on three former Iranian officials and two companies in a move that Washington described as “routine”.

The former Iranian officials included Ahmad Ghalebani, a managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company; Farzad Bazargan, a managing director of Hong Kong Intertrade Company, and Mohammad Moinie, a commercial director of Naftiran Intertrade Company Sarl.

A Treasury spokesperson said the US lifted the sanctions on the the three individuals because “they are no longer in their positions within entities affiliated with the Government of Iran” and there was no reason to maintain sanctions on them.

Read also: Nuclear deal agreement expected next week, EU envoy says

A US official speaking on the condition of anonymity also told Reuters that the move by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control [OFAC] was unrelated to the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Commenting on Washington’s move, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said it was not an indicator of progress in the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal as the US imposed additional sanctions on a network allegedly involved in funding the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] and Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The US designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organisation in 2019.

“Selective US delistings are neither related to JCPOA talks nor viewed as signals of goodwill – specially when coupled with renewed economic terrorism,” tweeted Khatibzadeh.

Commenting on the additional sanctions, director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea Gacki said that the “network’s financial support enables Houthis’ deplorable attacks”.

“These attacks undermine efforts to bring the conflict to an end and, most tragically, starve tens of millions of innocent civilians,” Gacki said.

Vienna talks

The indirect Vienna talks between the US and Iran kicked off on April 6th in hopes of reaching an agreement that would revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] following former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal in 2018.

Powers involved in the deal- UK, France, China, Russia, Germany- have been holding regular sessions to reach a deal.

Signs of progress were initially reported when the US and Iran agreed on the formation of two working groups to ensure compliance in the accord – one to oversee the lifting of sanctions on Tehran and another to monitor its limitation of nuclear activity.

Read also: Qatar believes in just transfer of power in Syria: Lolwah Al-Khater

International efforts to restore the deal intensified following Joe Biden’s election, who has been keen on its revival.

As a key strategic ally to the US and Iran, Qatar has been supporting the return of the JCPOA.

“We tried to act as a mediator between Iran and the United States and at some point there was a discussion about Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council. We are always ready to contribute to this process,” Assistant Foreign Minister and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lolwah Al-Khater said last week.

Al-Khater said that she advised the US to reach an agreement with Iran ahead of its upcoming elections by June 12th. She also revealed that European powers involved the accord—France, the United Kingdom, and Germany—sought Qatar’s support ahead of the Vienna talks.

“We tried to convince the Iranians to go to Vienna. The problem was that the Iranians did not want to see the United States at the negotiating table, since the Americans withdrew from the JCPOA. So it all took a little work, but we hope the result will be productive,” said the Qatari official.


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