European Union’s Enrique Mora (C) and Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani (R) at the Vienna nuclear talks, December 9, 2021 (AFP/Getty)
UPDATE, DEC 18:
Multiple US and European officials, including the European Union’s broker of the Vienna nuclear talks, say they have made it back to the point reached in June — but only for an agenda, rather than a consensus on issues.
Questioned about the state of the discussions after Friday’s adjournment, the EU’s Enrique Mora said the talks — resuming in late November after a five-month break because of Tehran — incorporated new Iranian texts on sanctions and technical issues IR delegation with respect to “procedures” and “negotiation”, seeing if the other powers in the 2015 agreement (UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia) were “keen to incorporate any” of Iran’s proposals.
A senior US State Department official said in a call with reporters:
We’re now at best to where we were last June, and what we’ve done is define the items on the agenda that need to be discussed. They have not been discussed, let alone resolved in this round, and therefore what we have an agenda of issues to be examined, not a set of solutions to be accepted.
Snr State Dept official, in background call on Iran talks that just wrapped up in Vienna, said there has been modest progress, but they need to pick up the pace. They were able to agree essentially on the agenda for the nuclear part of the talks. Now have to see if can close gaps
— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) December 17, 2021
The American official said, “We have not seen from [the Iranians] in the past week that same effort to try to define what were the common issues that we would need to address when it came to sanctions. We’re not there yet…again, that’s not because we were not willing to do it.”
UPDATE, DEC 17:
The eighth set of Iran nuclear talks in Vienna will adjourn Friday with little apparent progress.
The lead Iranian negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani, issued the announcement after Thursday meetings with the broker of the talks, the European Union’s political director Enrique Mora, and other delegations “to take stock of the situation and discuss the way forward”.
He put a positive spin on the development, “We have made good progress this week. We will convene a Joint Commission today [Friday] and will continue talks after a break of a few days.”
Following our consultations with other delegations, yesterday, @enriquemora_ & I met to take stock of the situation & discuss the way forward.
We have made good progress this week. We will convene a Joint Commission today & will continue talks after a break of a few days. https://t.co/IcBJiNagdF
— علی باقریکنی (@Bagheri_Kani) December 17, 2021
Diplomats said the Joint Commission will convene at 2 p.m. Vienna time. One said the deal’s participants (Iran, UK, France, Germany, China, Russia, and France) will reconvene on Demceber 27.
UPDATE, DEC 15:
European diplomats have amplified their warning that the 2015 Iran nuclear deal could be close to collapse.
UK, French, and German representatives said Tuesday, “We are rapidly reaching the end of the road.”
The statement was an ironic inversion of the hopeful declaration in June by Iran’s lead negotiator at the Vienna talks, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, that a resolution was “closer to the end of the road”.
But Tehran then suspended the talks for five months for the managed election of President Ebrahim Raisi, backed by the Supreme Leader, and the installation of his Government. That regime has taken a harder line in the Vienna discussions, setting aside progress made between April and June over US re-entry, lifting of American sanctions, and an Iranian return to compliance with the deal’s provisions.
Reading the joint text at the UN, French Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said:
Iran’s continued nuclear escalation means that we are rapidly reaching the end of the road.
We are nearing the point where Iran’s escalation of its nuclear programme will have completely hollowed out the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action].
UPDATE, DEC 14:
Diplomats from the UK, France, and Germany — three of the powers in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — have warned that the agreement may soon be “an empty shell” without progress in the Vienna talks.
The diplomats said in a Monday statement:
As of this moment, we still have not been able to get down to real negotiations.
Time is running out. Without swift progress, in light of Iran’s fast-forwarding of its nuclear programme, the JCPOA will very soon become an empty shell.
The Raisi Government says it has put two draft texts, one on US sanctions and one on technical provisions, on the table in Vienna. But the European diplomats noted that the drafts set aside progress in the talks between April and June:
We are losing precious time dealing with new Iranian positions inconsistent with the JCPoA or that go beyond it.
This is frustrating because the outline of a comprehensive and fair agreement that removes all JCPoA-related sanctions, while addressing our non-proliferation concerns, is clearly visible – and has been so since last summer.
Iran’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani, responded by assailing the Europeans and the US:
Some actors persist in their blame game habit, instead of real diplomacy. We proposed our ideas early, and worked constructively and flexibly to narrow gaps.
Diplomacy is a two-way street. If there’s real will to remedy the culprit’s wrongdoing [the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the deal in May 2018], the way for a quick, good deal will be paved.
UPDATE, DEC 12:
Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has warned that time is running out for a resolution over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Baerbock told reporters after a meeting of the G7 foreign ministers in Liverpool, UK, “It has [been] shown in the last days that we do not have any progress.”
The Foreign Minister said that Iran had set aside progress in the talks in the spring, putting back negotiations by six months.
But Russia’s lead negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov has a far different perspective:
To my surprise some analysts and journalists describe the situation at the #ViennaTalks as dramatic, “almost deadlock”. This is not the case in point. After the break the negotiators returned to normal diplomatic business and maintain intensive dialogue. Atmosphere is positive
— Mikhail Ulyanov (@Amb_Ulyanov) December 11, 2021
UPDATE, DEC 11:
The eighth set of the Vienna talks on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are shrouded in uncertainty after their opening day.
A European official said Friday that the Iranians, shifting their position, had agreed on negotiations from the point reached in June after the first set of discussions.
But Iranian officials denied the shift. The Raisi Government, which took office in August, had indicated that talks — over US re-entry into the deal, sanctions, and compliance with the agreement —must set aside the progress between April and June.
Iran’s chief negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani, maintained that Tehran is standing firm on its position set out last week.
He snapped in a tweet, “Dishonest reports from outside negotiating room won’t weaken our will to reach a deal securing our nation’s rights & interests.”
Senior European diplomats tell me (and others): "Iran has said it will accept working on the June texts. This will be put to the test over the next few days."
— Stephanie Liechtenstein (@StLiechtenstein) December 10, 2021
President Ebrahim Raisi issued a vague statement, giving little insight into the current position, on State TV on Saturday:
The fact that we presented the text of Iran’s proposal to the negotiating parties shows that we are serious in the talks, and if the other side is also serious about the removal of US sanctions, we will achieve a good agreement. We are definitely after a good agreement.
A “senior European Union official” put a positive spin on the situation: “My impression is that we are simply advancing in quite the logical way of the negotiation. That’s probably why our European friends interpret that the Iranian delegation is more forthcoming.”
The official said seven or eight “huge political points” needed to be resolved.
ORIGINAL ENTRY, DEC 10: The eighth set of Vienna talks on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal has opened, with European powers and the US testing if Tehran will pick up discussions from the point reached by June.
After a five-month break, largely because of Iran’s Raisi Government, the discussions reopened last week. However, Iran’s proposals indicated that it was setting aside the progress between April and June, which led chief Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi to declare a resolution was “closer to the end of the road”.
A Source close to #Iran team: As said by Bagheri, Iran’s proposals remain on the table & will guide Iran delegation during discussions on texts. There was no revision of position & no withdrawal of drafts. Other parties recognized Iran's demands & agreed to discuss them in detail. — Abas Aslani (@AbasAslani) December 10, 2021 t=”_blank”>European official said
Source close to #Iran team: As said by Bagheri, Iran’s proposals remain on the table & will guide Iran delegation during discussions on texts. There was no revision of position & no withdrawal of drafts. Other parties recognized Iran's demands & agreed to discuss them in detail.
— Abas Aslani (@AbasAslani) December 10, 2021
t=”_blank”>European official saidon Friday that the other powers still in the 2015 agreement (UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia) will test if Iran will continue on the basis of texts agreed after the sixth round of talks in June.
Iran’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani, maintained, “Iran’s seriousness is obvious. See who has cancelled other meetings and is in Vienna and who is not.”
The US delegation, led by envoy Rob Malley, is expected in the Austrian capital this weekend.
The head of the Russian delegation, Mikhail Ulnayov, tried to hold middle ground between Iran and the other powers. He called for the June position as the starting point while considering the new Iranian texts.
The #ViennaTalks will proceed from drafts elaborated by June 20 ( the end of the sixth round). But the new Iranian ideas must be properly discussed and thoroughly considered. This is an edict in multilateral diplomacy.
— Mikhail Ulyanov (@Amb_Ulyanov) December 9, 2021