US State Department spokesperson Ned Price during a briefing. FILE PHOTO

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price during a briefing

US Holds Ground In Nuclear Talks, Insisting Iran Should Make A Move


Despite Iranian and European officials expressing optimism over resumption of nuclear talks, the US response on Friday was guarded, putting the onus on Iran.

Commenting on the possibility of a final deal and whether the US would take the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) off the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO), the US State Department Spokesman Ned Price said Friday that that at this point a deal remained "far from certain." However, he described the resumption of conversation after several weeks of delay as important and said messages have been conveyed back and forth through the EU coordinator of the talks, Enrique Mora.

Mora was in Tehran this week to make another attempt at breaking the stalemate in the Vienna talks to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCOPA) which came to a pause in mid-March when Iran demanded that the IRGC be delisted.

Mora’s visit coincided with economic chaos in Iran resulting from a sudden jump in food prices followed by anti-government protests. But it is not clear if Tehran feels under pressure to make a deal and lift US economic sanctions or has decided to muddle through despite financial pressures.

"We are preparing equally for scenarios in which we have a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA and in which we do not.It is up to Iran to decide whether it wants to conclude a deal quickly," Price told reporters.

Price on several occasions has refused to comment on the possibility of IRGC's delisting which Iran insists is a "redline", and said the US does not "negotiate in public".

Qatar's Emir greeted by Iran's president in Tehran on May 12, 2022

The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell told reporters at a G7 foreign ministers' meeting in northern Germany Friday that Mora's visit to Tehran has unblocked the process of negotiations. "It has gone better than expected - the negotiations were stalled, and now they have been reopened," Borrell said.

The Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has also expressed optimism following Mora's two-day visit and his meeting with Iranian officials but has equally put the onus on the United States. "A good and reliable agreement is within reach if the United States makes a political decision and adheres to its commitments," he said in a tweet on Friday.

Iranian media have sounded optimistic following Mora's visit, which coincided with a visit by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Al Thani, to Tehran. Although there was no mention of the nuclear issue having been discussed during the Emir's visit in Iranian media, pundits says his mediation between Tehran and Washington could have a positive role in the future of the talks and help break the deadlock.

"The Qatari Emir's visit could be [an attempt at] creating a new mechanism and ending the stalemate in the talks between Iran and 4+1 countries in Vienna," international affairs expert Hasan Hanizadeh wrote in a commentary entitled "Resolution of the stalemate in Talks" in reformist Arman-e Melli newspaper Saturday.

"The Emir's extensive relations with European powers and the US can have a positive impact on the outcome of the Vienna talks," Hanizadeh wrote.

In an interview with Arman-e Melli on Saturday, another international affairs expert, Morteza Makki, said besides Qatar, Iraq and Oman are trying to bring the nuclear talks to a conclusion. "These are signs that there is a collective will to restore thee JCPOA and these diplomatic moves together may help make a success out of Enrique Mora's visit," he said. "It looks like Enrique Mora was given a green light when he came to Tehran and that Tehran has shown flexibility and wants to hear out the other side's arguments," he said.

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