Iran’s foreign minister has said talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement resume in Vienna based on a "new document" replacing a preliminary draft from June.
“We have put aside the June 2021 document, and negotiations on a joint document will commence as of today,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told reporters on the side-lines of a conference in Tehran. He described the new document as "mutually acceptable" and that it included issues related to both the Iran’s nuclear program and sanctions.
There has been speculation over the status of written proposals submitted by Iran at the beginning of December and how these might relate to discussions in Vienna that were suspended in June pending the Iranian presidential election and transition. Some Western diplomats have insisted that a draft from June remained the basis on which negotiators had to continue talks on restoring the 2015 agreement, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s lead negotiator in the talks, tweeted Sunday, reacting to Iranian journalist Abas Aslani that “having agreed on modality and agenda…we’ll now enter discussions on content,” that “to the best of my knowledge all the other participants in the Vienna talks on JCPOA proceed from similar understandings.”
Ulyanov also tweeted a timeline showing the effect of the US 2018 decision to leave the JCPOA and impose ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions on Iran, as “one day to destroy what took years to build & to cause more years of damage control.”
Amir-Abdollahian emphasized the importance to Iran of “guarantees and verification,” which he said would be on the agenda. The foreign minister stressed Iran needed to know it would be able to sell oil and receive payments in foreign currencies, which had been blocked under ‘maximum pressure’ US sanctions threating punitive actions against third parties. "We should be able to enjoy all the economic benefits [of the JCPOA] in various sectors,” Amir-Abdollahian said.
Stressing that Iranian negotiators would remain in the Austrian capital as long as required, a source close to the Iranian negotiation team told the official news agency IRNA Sunday that the previous round of talks had been focused on "general issues" whereas the eighth round would center on the contents of a potential agreement. "Now it's the opposite sides' turn to show their good will on the matter of the sanctions, progress in the future round hinges on the approach adopted by the other parties,” the source said.
In apparent reference to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House Iran envoy Robert Malley's warnings last week that time was running out to renew the JCPOA, the source said Iranian negotiators would not accept "factitious deadlines” and that Iran felt “no urgency” in concluding the talks.
Malley told CNN December 21 that “we have some weeks left but not much more than that." Asked if Iran was “playing for time,” he replied: "If it's their plan, I strongly urge them to revisit it."
Malley claimed Iran was “nearing the capability” to develop a nuclear weapon through expanding its nuclear program, referring to steps taken since 2019, the year after the US quit the JCPOA. Malley said that within weeks there would be no deal to be revived and "a period of escalating crisis" would follow.
Blinken spoke Tuesday of a window rapidly closing. "It's getting very, very short,” he said. “Being able to recover full benefits of JCPOA, by [presumably Tehran] returning to compliance with it, is getting increasingly problematic by advances that Iran makes every single day in its nuclear program."