Representatives from Iran and the powers in the 2015 nuclear deal open indirect talks with the US in Vienna, April 6, 2021 (EPA)

All sides have spoken of “constructive” nuclear talks between Iran, the US, and other powers in Vienna on Tuesday.

But Tehran, Washington, and the Europeans have put different glosses on the first indirect discussions. Iran is sticking to its “You Go First” line: all US sanctions must be removed before any substantive negotiations leading to AMerican re-entry into the July 2015 deal from which the Trump Administration withdrew in May 2018.

The chief coordinator for the European Union, overseeing the talks, hailed a productive opening session. Enrique Mora tweeted:

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in Washington, “It is a welcome step, it is a constructive step, it is a potentially useful step,” while repeating the Administration’s expectation that the indirect talks would be “difficult”.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, who led the delegation in Vienna, said on State TV, “The talks in Vienna were constructive….Our next meeting will be on Friday.” He hailed the “seriousness” of the powers still in the deal — the UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia” — and said, “For now, we’re in right direction.”

Iran Maintains “You Go First” Line

But Araqchi did not include the US on the list, and he stuck to Iran’s public pre-condition that all American sanctions, including the comprehensive measures imposed by the Trump Administration in November 2018, must be lifted.

The Biden Administration and European Union are proposing a “sequenced” arrangement, linked the removal of the sanctions to Iran’s return to compliance with the 2015 deal. Since 2019, Tehran has suspended key provisions, and in January it returned to its pre-2015 level of 20% enriched uranium, which potentially can be further enhanced to military-grade 90%.
Araqchi emphasized Tehran’s rejection: “We don’t have a step by step process. All things will be done in “one final step” which is “endgame”….We’ll do our measures after US fulfills commitments & we verify them.”

He claimed the Joint Commission of the other powers accepted this position.

Technical talks will continue through the week, and the Joint Commission will reconvene on Friday.