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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Top US envoy to Iran to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE within days

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While Qatar is not playing a mediating role between US and Iran, it has been calling for the restoration of the nuclear deal.

US Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley is travelling to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates between 15-21 October to discuss the stalled talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.

“We will be prepared to adjust to a different reality in which we have to deal with all options to address Iran’s nuclear programme if it’s not prepared to come back into the constraints of [the nuclear deal],” said Malley in a virtual interview with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Wednesday.

The Iran nuclear deal has been among the most important files in Qatar’s foreign policy, with the Gulf state continuously reiterating the importance of returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] following the US withdrawal in 2018.

“We are going to provide any assistance or support needed by the parties. We are talking and engaging with Iran, encouraging them to go back to the deal,” said Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani at fourth annual Global Security Forum in Doha.

Malley previously met with Sheikh Mohammed in September where the two diplomats discussed key regional developments.

‘Other options’

During the virtual interview, Malley noted that President Joe Biden will be focusing on other options if the talks fail.

This came after US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said last week in a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Eyal Hulata that “if diplomacy fails, the United States is prepared to turn to other options”.

Washington withdrew from the deal under the former Donald Trump administration in 2018 in a bid to apply “maximum pressure” on Iran, further imposing crippling sanctions on the country.
Since then, Israel has consistently and vocally opposed the restoration of the JCPOA. On Wednesday Israel said it has the right to act against Iran to stop its nuclear programme.
“If the Iranians don’t believe the world is serious about stopping them, they will race to the bomb. Israel reserves the right to act at any given moment in any given way,” warned Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in a joint press conference with his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in DC.
Lapid added that action must be taken “if a terror regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon”.
Echoing Lapid’s statement, Blinken said the US will “look at every option
to deal with the challenge posed by Iran” while claiming that the Islamic Republic has not been engaging in diplomacy.
“And we continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to do that. But, it takes two to engage in diplomacy, and we have not seen from Iran a willingness to do that at this point,” said Blinken.
The US official also said Israel has “has the right to defend itself”.
Indirect US-Iran talks in Vienna kicked off in April this year in efforts to revive the JCPOA following Washington’s withdrawal, with both sides expressing their readiness to restore the accord at the time.
The last round of talks in Vienna took place on 20 June, with reports suggesting diplomats would return to the negotiating table following President Ebrahim Raisi’s inauguration.
Since then, there have been several positive statements made by Raisi regarding the return to nuclear talks, however no moves have yet been taken.

Iran and the US have also been exchanging blame over the willingness to return to negotiations, with the former demanding that Washington lifts its sanctions on Tehran in order to resume talks.

Top Iranian official Bagheri meets Qatar’s FM in first visit to Doha

Blinken has also accused Iran of using the break from the talks “to advance its nuclear programme in a variety of ways”.
In recent months, Iran has increased its uranium enrichment to 60% to respond to various  attacks over its nuclear sites, including one that targeted the Natanz facility. Tehran blamed Israel for the assaults, which struck the Islamic Republic amid talks in Vienna.
While Western powers saw Iran’s decision to increase the production as part of measures to develop nuclear weapons, Tehran claimed the enriched uranium will be be used to produce molybdenum to manufacture radiopharmaceuticals.

Iran has also came under fire for denying the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], access to its sites with reports confirming the agency’s cameras were destroyed by authorities in Tehran.

The UN nuclear watchdog said Iran had failed to honour the terms of the deal and failed to allow inspectors to service monitoring equipment on the site.

The EU coordinator on Iran Enrique Mora is visiting Iran on Thursday amid concerns over its nuclear activity.

“Travelling to Tehran where I will meet my counterpart at a critical point in time. As coordinator of the JCPOA, I will raise the urgency to resume JCPOA negotiations in Vienna. Crucial to pick up talks from where we left last June to continue diplomatic work,” said Mora.

One diplomat from the E3 – Britain, France and Germany – also said “the nuclear situation has worsened continuously and seriously”.

“This therefore is from our E3 point of view not a ‘business as usual’ but a visit in [the] context of a deep crisis in the JCPOA,” the diplomat added.


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