Iran delegation at the 7th set of talks on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Vienna, Austria, December 2021
UPDATE, JAN 18:
As lead negotiators return to the Iran nuclear talks after a weekend break, Western diplomats say Tehran’s representatives are acting more pragmatically; however, significant gaps remain on key issues.
The statements by the diplomats indicated that an informal US deadline for resolution by the end of January will be pushed back.
A “source close to the talks” told journalists on Friday:
Now we are in a phase of the negotiations, which basically is going around the difficult issues and how we can…translate it into words into the document. So this is probably the most difficult…tedious and long part of the negotiation. When you have to agree on how you will put something that the principle is already agreed, but the details are important.
On sanctions lifting, we have cleaned a lot of the text. But still, we are dealing with difficult issues. The same goes for nuclear [issues]. And now we are increasingly working on the third annex, which is about implementation…[and] sequencing.
The broker of the discussions, the European Union’s Enrique Mora, tweeted on Sunday:
Working Group on sanctions lifting meeting right now at Coburg. More meetings scheduled for today. Success of #ViennaTalks on #JCPOA is still uncertain, what’s only logical in such a complex negotiation. But, as coordinator I can’t but commend delegations commitment to a success. pic.twitter.com/xTPCLmpKKp
— Enrique Mora (@enriquemora_) January 16, 2022
Publicly US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who reportedly agreed on the January 31 deadline in talks with Israeli officials in late December, is maintaining that a resolution must be reached soon. He said on national TV on Sunday: “We are determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We believe that diplomacy is the best way to do that. But as…Secretary of State [Antony Blinken] has said, time is running short.”
Ali Vaez of the Iran program at the International Crisis Group, who is in contact with American officials, assessed on Monday:
Even if the details on sanctions relief were completely finalized, I don’t think it is physically possible to bridge all the gaps by the end of the month.
What I hear is that in general, the US assessment is that the Iranians are much more pragmatic. The issue is that on key areas of disagreement, progress is still scant and extremely slow….
[On] the key issues — the scope of sanctions relief, guarantees, sequencing, all of those issues — they have not been able to bridge the gaps.
UPDATE, JAN 12:
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has cautioned that there are still significant gaps in the negotiations over a revised Iran nuclear agreement.
Le Drian told a Parliamentary hearing on Tuesday:
The discussions are ongoing. They are slow, too slow and that creates a gap that jeopardises the chance of finding a solution that respects the interests of all sides.
Bits of progress were made at the end of December, but we are still far from concluding this negotiation.
China, seen by Iran as an essential supporter in the Vienna talks, has publicly drawn a line over Tehran’s nuclear program.
China's top diplomat at the #ViennaTalks says China strongly supports Iran's positions on its nuclear program *so long as it doesn't risk [nuclear weapons] proliferation*
A sign that China has redlines for how much nuclear expansion in Iran it is willing to accept.
— Sina Toossi (@SinaToossi) January 11, 2022
Beijing is hosting separate visits this week by the Foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain and by the Secretary General of Gulf Cooperation Council.
UPDATE, JAN 8:
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has reiterated that there is modest progress in renewed Iran nuclear talks, but has warned that time is running out for a resolution.
Le Drian told TV and radio outlets on Friday:
I remain convinced we can reach a deal. Bits of progress have been made in the last few days. We have been heading in a positive direction in the last few days, but time is of the essence, because if we don’t get an accord quickly there will be nothing to negotiate.
Le Drian’s line echoes that of American officials, who have reportedly said that significant progress towards an accord must be made by the end of January. The officials said the Biden Administration is considering the imposition of UN “snapback” sanctions if there are no assurances of an Iran return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, including the rollback of enrichment of 20% and 60% uranium.
UPDATE, JAN 4:
The Iran nuclear talks resumed on Monday in Vienna after a three-day break for New Year.
The Iranian delegation first met the European Union’s Enrique Mora, the broker of the talks, and then the representatives of the UK, France, and Germany.
— Abas Aslani (@AbasAslani) January 3, 2022
Iran’s Foreign Ministry continued to declare that European powers and the US are retreating before the Raisi Government’s return of the talks to early 2021, reversing progress made between April in June in Vienna.
Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday, “If we have a common text today, that’s because the Western side realized that it must back down from its maximalist demands.”
He praised Russia and China while denouncing the UK, Germany, and Germany: “[Moscow and Beijing] do not have Alzheimer’s and know that it was the Americans who actively tried to destroy the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action].”
UPDATE, DEC 31:
Talks over Iran’s nuclear program have adjourned for three days because of New Year’s events at the Palais Coburg in Vienna.
The discussions were overtaken on Thursday by Iran’s launch of three payloads into space, hailed by Tehran as a sign of its technological progress.
Defense Ministry spokesman Ahmad Hosseini said a Simorgh (Phoenix) rocket took the payloads to an
altitude of 470 km (254 miles).
First footage of Iran's launch of Simorgh SLV today.
The rocket was reportedly carrying three payloads but given that the rocket reached 7,350 m/s, it's unlikely that they entered orbit. pic.twitter.com/rcsOPSvGrA
— Kian Sharifi (@KianSharifi) December 30, 2021
A US State Department spokesperson tried to link the event to Iran’s ballistic missile program:
The United States remains concerned with Iran’s development of space launch vehicles, which pose a significant proliferation concern….
[The vehicles] incorporate technologies that are virtually identical to, and interchangeable with, those used in ballistic missiles, including longer-range systems.
The spokesperson claimed the launch violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, complementing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which instructed Iran not to pursue research and development of ballistic missiles with the potential to carry nuclear warheads.
UPDATE, DEC 29:
Countering Iran’s effort to set US sanctions removal as a precondition in the Vienna nuclear talks, the US and European countries say there has been “modest progress” in the latest discussions.
While refraining from criticism of Tehran, the UK, France, and Germany emphasized that the advance since Monday in the 8th set of talks is insufficient:
We are clear that we are nearing the point where Iran’s escalation of its nuclear program will have completely hollowed out the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action].
That means we have weeks, not months, to conclude a deal before the JCPOA’s core non-proliferation benefits are lost.
While warning of the urgency for resolution, the European trio said there are no deadlines.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “There may have been some modest progress. But it is in some ways too soon to say how substantive that progress may have been. At a minimum, any progress, we believe, is falling short of Iran’s accelerating nuclear steps and is far too slow.”
Iranian officials responded with a combination of the positive, declaring that their agenda has been accepted as the basis for talks, and the ongoing criticism of the Europeans and the US.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told reporters in Tehran, “We believe that if the other sides continue the talks, which have just started in this phase, with goodwill, it will be possible for all parties to reach a good agreement for all parties and we can realize this goal.”
But Dr. Seyed Mohammad Marandi of Tehran University, the de facto spokesman for the Iranian delegation in Vienna, snapped at US-European “deadlines” and dismissed the effect of renewed sanctions, “So what if [UN Security Council resolutions against Iran are restored?”
UPDATE, DEC 28:
The eighth set of Vienna talks on the Iran nuclear programme opened on Monday, with Tehran emphasizing the removal of US sanctions.
Shifting from a week of attacks on European powers and the US, Iran’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani, sought the initiative with the declaration:
blockquote>In today’s meeting, the Islamic Republic of Iran once again stressed that the key to the success and progress of the talks toward reaching an agreement is the effective and practical removal of sanctions. All sides have agreed that there is a good framework to work off of in this eighth round of talks.
Baqeri Kani said Tuesday’s discussions would move from general consideration of sanctions to financial and banking issues. He did not refer to the other key element of the talks, alongside US re-entry to the 2015 deal: Iran’s return to compliance with the provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
However, he proclaimed that the US must remove sanctions before Iran then reversed its enrichment of 20% and 60% uranium, violating the provisions of the 2015 agreement.
China’s representatives indicated a deal could be concluded by February, and Russia’s Mikhail Ulyanov was positive:
At the meeting of the Joint Commission today the 8th round of the #ViennaTalks was declared open. The participants held businesslike and result-oriented discussions. In particular they agreed to intensify the drafting process in order to achieve an agreement ASAP. pic.twitter.com/MZX5Hq6ZW5
— Mikhail Ulyanov (@Amb_Ulyanov) December 27, 2021
But there was no comment from the US or the European participants — the UK, France, and Germany — in the deal. All have challenged the Raisi Government’s insistence on sanctions removal as a precondition, setting side progress in the talks between April and June.
The broker of the talks, the European Union’s Enrique Mora, was guarded in his assessment:
We have come a long, long way since the beginning of the negotiation, we have incorporated sensitivities of a new Iranian government, so from the point of view of the coordinator we are exactly at the point where we should be if we want to get the final successful result.
If we work hard in the days and weeks ahead, we should have a positive result. It is going to be very difficult. Difficult political decisions have to be taken both in Tehran and in Washington.
UPDATE, DEC 26:
On the eve of renewed nuclear talks in Vienna, Iran has continued its verbal attacks on France, one of the powers in the 2015 agreement.
An Iranian official used State outlet Press TV to claim that the French were absent for two days in the latest discussions, and then reversed an advance when they returned.
The presence of French representatives at the G7 foreign ministers summit in Liverpool and their two-day absence at a time when delegations in Vienna were working on the drafts in the previous round of negotiations led to significant progress. However, after their return from Liverpool, a disruptive trend started again.
The drafts had reached an acceptable level [of agreement], but following the return of the French envoys from the Liverpool conference and their expression of opposition to the drafts, the course of the talks was disrupted. This gave rise to certain arguments in the internal meeting of the P4+1 countries.
The official gave no evidence for the claim of “significant progress” which had been overturned. The UK, Germany, and the US have all joined France in challenging Iran for its failure to negotiate on the basis of advances made between April and June.
Meanwhile, President Ebrahim Raisi has supported the chest-thumping of the Revolutionary Guards, which held military exercises last week and declared that they were a warning to Israel.
Any hostile action by the enemies will face a comprehensive and decisive response from the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran and will change the strategic equation in a meaningful way.
Raisi’s celebration of the military display followed his Christmas good wishes, “Jesus Christ is the messenger of perseverance against oppressors and domination-seekers, and this is a great lesson that everybody must learn.”
Vice President Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini assailed the UK, another participant in the nuclear deal over its criticism of the ballistic missile drills as “a threat to regional and international security”.
“The anger of Britain, which was once unbridled in the region, at the authority of the Islamic Republic of Iran, is understandable, but they must inevitably accept that time has passed,” Hosseini tweeted.
ORIGINAL ENTRY, DEC 24: The Vienna talks on Iran’s nuclear program will resume on December 27, even as Tehran denounces the three European powers — the UK, France, and Germany — in the 2015 nuclear deal.
The European Union’s Enrique Mora, who is brokering the discussions, announced the resumption via Twitter:
#ViennaTalks to resume on Monday 27 December. The #JCPOA Joint Commission will meet to discuss and define the way ahead. Important to pick up the pace on key outstanding issues and move forward, working closely with the US. Welcome to the 8th round.
— Enrique Mora (@enriquemora_) December 23, 2021
The discussions were renewed in late November, after a five-month break by Tehran, between Iran and the remaining 5+1 Powers (UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia). They are seeking US re-entry after Donald Trump’s withdrawal in May 2018, the lifting of American sanctions, and Iran’s return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
However, the negotiations made little advance as the Raisi Government set aside progress between April and June by its predecessor and the other powers, instead presentation of new texts on sanctions and technical issues. The talks were adjourned last week with an agreement for both the June position and Iran’s texts to be on the agenda when discussions resume.
The challenge was highlighted on Thursday by the comments of Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, speaking in Tehran alongside Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein:
We do not see the position of some European countries as constructive, specifically that of France.
When they say they are concerned about the progress of Iran’s nuclear programme, we say out loud: “If you want to have your concerns addressed, then all sanctions must be lifted.”
Ignoring the texts discussed in the spring, Amir-Abdollahian declared that the UK, France, and Germany “did not put forward any new initiative in the talks”.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, in Israel for consultations, said on Wednesday that there were only “weeks” left to complete an agreement. Two Israeli officials said the window could close by the end of January or beginning of February.