Iranian officials were silent on Monday regarding reports that the European Union wants to send its envoy back to Tehran to jump start the stalled nuclear talks.
Iran on Monday was in a total confusion, as it was not clear if Ramadan ended or not, and if there was a public holiday. The foreign ministry did not hold its weekly press briefing.
Western diplomats told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday that the EU is offering to send its top negotiator Enrique Mora to Tehran again to persuade Tehran to show flexibility.
Mora, the senior EU official chairing the Vienna process, has told Iranian negotiators he is ready to return to Tehran to open a pathway through the deadlock, diplomats told the Wall Street Journal. Mora failed to convince Tehran to return to the talks during his March 27 visit.
Talks in Vienna to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), have been in limbo since mid-March when Iran insisted that its Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) be removed from the US list of terrorist organizations. The US has not agreed to the demnd.
Reuters reported on Monday that the West has almost given up on the process and is contemplating what to do next.
"They are not yanking the IV out of the patient's arm ... but I sense little expectation that there is a positive way forward," one source, who like others quoted spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitiviy, told Reuters.
Western diplomats told the Wall Street Journal that they want to put the onus back on Tehran, making it clear the talks could fail unless Tehran took a step to end the stalemate. Mora, they said, will try to persuade Tehran to leave the issue of IRGC's delisting to a future point and sign off on the deal now. Tehran has so far not responded to the proposition, the report said.
In a phone talk with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian's on April 20, the EU foreign policy Chief, Josep Borrell expressed frustration over the pause in the talks and called for fresh contacts between Enrique Mora and Iran’s lead negotiator Ali Bagheri-Kani.
Iran insists that it will not give up on its demand for the removal of the IRGC from the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO), calling it a 'red line' it will not cross at any cost
The Biden administration is adamant that it will only negotiate the delisting of the IRGC if Tehran also agrees to discuss other issues which are important for Washington, presumably Iran's aggressive regional policies and support for militant groups, which are also outside the JCPOA purview.
Despite the deadlock in the talks that appears to have much to do with the IRGC regional activities and pledge to take revenge on American officials for ordering the targeted killing of Ghasem Soleimani, officials in Tehran have shown no signs of softening their rhetoric in the past few weeks
Soleimani, commander of the Qods (Quds) Force, the IRGC's extraterritorial arm, was killed in a drone attack in Baghdad in January 2020 on Trump's orders.
The pause in talks has given ample opportunity for JCPOA critics in both Tehran and Washington. The Republicans have highlighted the prospect that lifting US ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions on Iran in return for Tehran accepting JCPOA limits on its nuclear program would see Tehran repatriate billions of dollars currently frozen by creditors wary of punitive US action.
US Democratic Senator Bob Menendez (NJ) reiterated Sunday that no nuclear deal with Ian was better than a bad deal. “It’s 2022. It's not 2014. Some of the original deal sunsets are even closer… to ending a pathway where Iran could ultimately achieve its goal,” a reference to the belief that Tehran is bent on producing nuclear weapons.