The latest round of the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna broke Friday for at least ten days in a somber mood without evident signs of progress.
Enrique Mora, the senior European Union official chairing formal meetings, told reporters he hoped talks would resume by the end of the year. "We don't have months, we rather have weeks to have an agreement,” he said.
Mora said that written proposals submitted this month by Iran had been incorporated into negotiations, which in seven rounds of talks since April have discussed reviving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
“We are in a situation both in sanctions and nuclear, where difficult political decisions have to be taken,” Mora said. “It's going to be politically painful sometimes. And we don't have much time. So ... my plea, my call is for delegations to establish clear priorities, to come with an open and realistic situation of what can be achieved, and go for it."
The three JCPOA western European JCPOA signatories – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – issued a downbeat statement. "We hope that Iran is in a position to resume the talks quickly, and to engage constructively so that talks can move at a faster pace,” it read. “We are rapidly reaching the end of the road for this negotiation.”
While United States ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions, imposed on Iran when the US left the JCPOA in 2018, remain at the crux of the Vienna talks, Tehran has increasingly directed criticism at the ‘E3,’ who they feel have moved closer to the US in recent months.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Friday that the talks in Vienna were “not going well,” and that Washington had communicated its “alarm” through the Europeans over Iran’s expanding nuclear program.
The official Iranian news agency IRNA suggested Friday that France in particular was playing a negative role, and that the E3 had coordinated with Israel, which was recently reported to have allocated $1.5 billion for a military attack on Iran and has been lobbying in Washington for a tougher approach.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Friday that data from an agency camera at Iran’s Karaj manufacturing site was missing. The camera was damaged in a drone attack in June widely blamed on Israel, and was one of several removed by Iran from the site. While Iran is not required to allow IAEA access under its safeguards agreement, the agency regards monitoring Karaj, which makes equipment for uranium enrichment, as important to assessing Iran’s program.
Iran and the IAEA agreed Wednesday that the agency would reinstall cameras as the site, although the IAEA would not receive the footage until agreement is reached in Vienna and the greater access required by the JCPOA restored.
The central challenge in the Vienna talks since they began in April is agreeing how Iran’s nuclear program, expanded and improved since 2019, can be returned to JCPOA limits, and exactly which US sanctions contravene the JCPOA and should be lifted as Washington returns to the deal.
The formal talks in Vienna involve the remaining JCPOA signatories – China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and the United Kingdom – with the US taking part indirectly. China's chief negotiator, Wan Qun, said Friday he hoped talks would resume before the end of the year.