Enrique Mora (L) and Ali Bagheri Kani in a previous meeting in Tehran

Enrique Mora (L) and Ali Bagheri Kani in a previous meeting in Tehran

US, Iran In Same Doha Hotel For ‘Proximity Talks’


Indirect or "proximity" nuclear talks between Iran and the United States began Tuesday with negotiators in different parts of a hotel in Doha, Qatar.

Enrique Mora, the European Union official who chaired year-long talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (the JCPOA, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), is acting as a mediator between the teams led by Rob Malley, the United States special envoy, and Ali Bagheri-Kani, a deputy Iranian foreign minister.

Bagheri-Kani met Mora Tuesday in what signaled the beginning of the process, which is expected to last two or three days. With a wave of criticism in Tehran from critics of the 2015 deal and pundits generally cautious, IRNA has offered no information on these initial contacts.

Joseph Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief tweeted that “my team is as of today in Doha to coordinate and facilitate indirect exchanges between US and Iranian negotiators.” Borrell used the phrase “proximity talks.”

Mora and Bagheri-Kani meeting in Doha on Tuesday

Reuters news agency last week cited an Iranian and European official that Tehran had signaled it might drop a demand for its Revolutionary Guards to be removed from the US list of ‘foreign terrorist organizations.’ There have for weeks been suggestions from analysts that the issue, which is contentious in both Tehran and Washington, could be kicked into the long grass.

Borrell, in a trip to Tehran accompanied by Mora, announced at the weekend a new phase in talks, which had up to mid-March been based in Vienna and involved the remaining JCPOA signatories – China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, and the United Kingdom – with the US, which left the agreement in 2018, taking part indirectly through a team in a separate hotel.

Iran has apparently refused face-to-face talks with the Americans, both within JCPOA structures and the kind of informal contracts that led up to the JCPOA in 2015. Qatar – which has good relations with both Tehran and Washington, and is relatively distanced from JCPOA-opponent Saudi Arabia – has played a quiet role mediating between the two sides.

Mora and Borrell have both expressed guarded optimism over prospects while suggesting substantive issues remained. Mora last week tweeted a picture of himself, Borrell and Malley at dinner, over which the US envoy expressed what Mora called “firm US commitment to come back to the deal.”

In Tehran Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a vice-president under reformist president Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), tweeted that “opportunities can go as quickly as passing clouds.”

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