An early round of Iran’s resumed Vienna talks with world powers took place Monday with a positive reaction from the European Union official chairing the meeting.
Enrique Mora, a deputy general-secretary in the European Union, told reporters he was positive after the first round with Iran’s new negotiation team led by deputy foreign minister Ali Bagheri Kani.
Mora said Iran was engaging seriously while sticking to a position emphasizing the importance of lifting United States sanctions.
Bagheri Kani told reporters he was optimistic, and that parties to the talks had agreed they should focus on lifting sanctions.
"The meeting of the Joint Commission on #JCPOA is over,” Mikhail Ulyanov, Russian ambassador to United Nations organizations in Vienna tweeted. “The participants agreed on further immediate steps during the seventh round of negotiations which started quite successfully.”
The Vienna talks are formally between remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action): China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, and the United Kingdom. The United States, which left the deal under previous president Donald Trump in 2018, takes part indirectly.
The talks have been in abeyance since June. Rounds between April and June failed to reach agreement on how to revive the JCPOA, both by removing US ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions introduced by Trump and by scaling back Iran’s expansion of its nuclear program beyond JCPOA limits since 2019.
While the remaining JCPOA signatories have all argued they expect both the US and Iran to return to the terms of the agreement, there has been a growing difference of emphasis between the European trio (the ‘E3’), who have moved closer to the Biden administration in expressing disquiet over Iran’s expanding nuclear program and restricted cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and Russia and China.
The will of the West
In editorial piece published in the Financial Times on the eve of the talks Bagheri Kani referred not just to the US but wrote that Iran waited to see whether “the west has the will to enter real negotiations.”
Russia recently played down concerns over Iran expressed by IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi. Moscow’s IAEA ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov said these were a “constant irritant” but had “little practical meaning in terms of proliferation risks” and the real challenge was restoring the JCPOA.
Wang Qun, China’s envoy at the International Atomic Energy Agency, last week linked the Vienna talks to the issue of Aukus atomic submarine deal between the US, UK and Australia.
“Why do the U.S. and U.K. say Iran can’t enrich uranium above 3.7 percent, while on the other hand they plan to transfer tons of highly enriched 90 percent material to Aukus?” Wang said Friday. “This is an example of a double standard.”
Under the JCPOA Iran is restricted in uranium enrichment to 3.67 percent, but is now enriching small quantities as high as 60 percent.