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Monday, January 24, 2022

Vienna talks start on ‘positive note’ as Iran pushes for lifting of sanctions


The latest round of talks is the first to take place under the Ebrahim Raisi administration.

Diplomats returned to Vienna on Monday for talks aimed at restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] following a five-month hiatus.

The talks kicked off on a positive note despite mounting tensions between the US and Iran.

“The resumption of the Vienna talks is quite successful. At the very beginning of the seventh round JCPOA participants decided to continue without delay the drafting process in two working groups…this work starts immediately,” tweeted Russia’s representative at the talks Mikhail Ulyanov.

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

Diplomats from the p4+1 – China, France, Russia, the UK and Germany – are in attendance.

“I feel positive that we can be doing important things for the next weeks,” EU nuclear negotiator Enrique Mora told reporters, as quoted by Al Jazeera, noting that Iran agreed on the need to build on results achieved at previous rounds of talks.

Meanwhile, Ulyanov said participants at the meeting of the Joint Commission on the JCPOA also agreed on “further immediate steps” during the latest round of talks.

This was followed with a separate meeting between US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, Ulyanov and China’s envoy to Vienna Wang Qun.

We exchanged views on the resumed Vienna Talks on JCPOA and confirmed common determination to work for their successful finalisation,” said Ulyanov.

The Russian envoy added that the working groups are meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Washington and Tehran had agreed to form two working groups during the first round of talks in April to ensure the compliance of both sides in the accord – one to oversee the lifting of sanctions on Iran and another to monitor its limitation of nuclear activity.

Despite this, the talks were inconclusive and tensions only increased.

Lifting of sanctions

Following the latest round, Iran’s foreign ministry said its top negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani expressed Tehran’s seriousness in reaching a “fair agreement”.

US vows to exert pressure on Iran in upcoming round of talks

“So long as the US’ maximum pressure campaign breathes, reviving the JCPOA is nothing more than exorbitant talk,” said Bagheri Kani.

When former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, he imposed stifling economic sanctions on Iran in a bid to apply what his administration described as “maximum pressure” on Tehran.

While the Joe Biden administration has since appeared to be keen on restoring the deal in a bid to reverse Trump’s policies, tensions between the long-term rivals have remained.
Prior the seventh round of talks, Malley warned that the US will be exerting pressure on Iran if it accelerates its nuclear programme during the negotiations.
“If Iran thinks it can use this time to build more leverage and then come back and say they want something better it simply won’t work. We and our partners won’t go for it,” Malley told BBC Sounds on Saturday.
Malley’s statement came as world powers expressed concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme, especially after it had enriched uranium at 60% purity in response to a series of attacks which Tehran has blamed on Israel.
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.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Ulyanov said the US confirmed its readiness to “lift all “sanctions inconsistent with the JCPOA in exchange for return of Iran to full compliance with JCPOA”.
“But in multilateral diplomacy the devil is in the details. The concrete list of sanctions to be lifted is subject to negotiations,” he added.

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