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Monday, January 24, 2022

US warns ‘runway for negotiations getting short’ as nuclear talks resume

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Israel and the US are reportedly discussing drills in preparation for a worst case scenario in case diplomacy with Iran fails.

The US warned that the “runway” for negotiations is beginning to shorten as diplomats return to talks in Vienna to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].

“We should know in pretty short order if the Iranians are going…to negotiate in good faith,” said US State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Wednesday, while warning that “the runway is getting very, very short for negotiations”.

The seventh round of talks in Vienna resumed on Thursday after negotiators from the p4+1 –China, France, Russia, the UK plus Germany—returned to their countries for consultations last week.

“After a number of preparatory meetings this morning the JCPOA participants now hold an official meeting of the Joint Commission. The seventh round of the Vienna Talks is fully resumed,” tweeted Russia’s envoy at the negotiations Mikhail Ulyanov.

The indirect US-Iran talks initially started in the Austrian capital in April this year to revive the 2015 nuclear accord, but adjourned following the sixth round in June. They were put on hold as Iran’s elections took place, which saw the victory of Ebrahim Raisi.

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During the latest round, the US and Iran exchanged blame over willingness to restore the 2015 nuclear accord. The US has been accusing Iran of ramping up its nuclear programme as Tehran continues to demand the lifting of sanctions.

On Tuesday, the US Treasury Department imposed fresh sanctions on several individuals and entities in Iran over “gross violations of human rights”. Analysts believe the latest sanctions indicate that Washington does not want to negotiate in “good faith”.

Iran had enriched uranium at 60% purity earlier this year in response to a series of attacks on nuclear facilities, which it blamed Israel for conducting. Tel Aviv is a vocal opponent of the restoration of the 2015 nuclear accord.
Tehran has long defended its decision by saying its nuclear programme is peaceful, suggesting the enriched uranium is used to produce molybdenum to manufacture radio-pharmaceuticals.

Military drills

Meanwhile, a senior Washington official told Reuters that the US and Israeli defence chiefs are expected to discuss military drills on Thursday in preparation for a possible response if diplomacy with Iran fails.

The official declined to provide the news agency with further details on the military exercises.

“We’re in this pickle because Iran’s nuclear programme is advancing to a point beyond which it has any conventional rationale,” said the official said, while still voicing hope for discussions.

Reuters also reached out to the Israeli embassy in Washington and Iran’s mission to the UN for a comment, but received no response from both sides.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz tweeted that he departed to the US to “discuss possible modes of action to ensure the cessation of [Iran’s] attempt to enter the nuclear sphere and broaden its activity in the region”.
This comes following statements by US and Israeli officials ahead of the Vienna talks, in which they warned of “other options” if Iran continues its nuclear activities.

Regional rival Israel has been accusing Iran of developing nuclear weapons over the past decades in a bid to maintain its military power in the region while continuing to occupy Palestine


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