LATEST: Confusion Continues over Russia-Iran Oil Deal, As Completion” Is Suddenly Retracted

Officials from Iran and the US are holding bilateral nuclear talks in Geneva on Thursday, the first discussions since the adjournment of negotiations on a comprehensive deal on July 18.

The US delegation will be led by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, lead US nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman, and the National Security Advisor to the Vice President, Jacob Sullivan. Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, leads Tehran’s representatives.

Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany) were unable to complete an agreement last month despite 16 days of discussions in Vienna. The two sides agreed to extend an interim deal to November 24 and to resume high-level talks this autumn.

Araqchi said this week that the discussions could be in late September in New York; however, in a further sign of Iran’s wish for talks in the near-future, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said Wednesday, “We might even have negotiations sooner than this date.”

Today’s encounter is the first public bilateral discussion between US and Iranian officials outside formal negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 Powers.

Issues are likely to include the number and level of Iranian centrifuges for enrichment of uranium to 5%; the status of facilities such as the Arak heavy-water reactor and the Fordoo enrichment plant; and the lifting of US-led sanctions.

Confusion Continues over Russia-Iran Oil Deal, As Completion” Is Suddenly Retracted

Uncertainty continues over the status of a possible arrangement for Russia to take Iranian oil, following the sudden withdrawal of an announcement that a deal had been completed.

Since January, reports have circulated of Moscow buying up to 500,000 barrels per day — almost 1/3 of Iran’s current oil exports — in exchange for Russian equipment and goods.

On Tuesday, Moscow said Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Iranian counterpart Bijan Namdar Zanganeh signed a five-year memorandum of understanding for cooperation.

“Based on Iran’s proposal, we will participate in arranging shipments of crude oil, including to the Russian market,” Novak supposedly said.

Several minutes later, however, the Energy Ministry withdrew the statement.

Yesterday Deputy Oil Minister for International Affairs Ali Majedi said, “Talks with Russia are continuing, but >a final decision has yet to be made.”