World powers made further progress in their efforts to end a yearslong standoff between Iran and the U.S. over the fate of the 2015 nuclear deal, as the Islamic Republic said a “new understanding” was taking shape at key talks in Vienna.
Iran’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, said serious disagreements remain but that his country was working on a draft text for reviving the accord that could work as a framework for subsequent discussions.
“The drafting of the text can begin now, and the Iranian delegation has prepared and presented its text on the nuclear sphere and the lifting of sanctions,” Araghchi told Iranian state TV. The U.S. hasn’t yet commented on Iran’s upbeat characterization.
Earlier this week Araghchi said that Washington and Tehran had to specify the steps that they would each need to take in order to restore the 2015 deal, including a tally of all Trump-era sanctions that the U.S. would need to remove from Iran’s economy.
Saturday’s comments inject new hope into a process that was plunged into crisis last week after the second attack in less than a year on a major Iranian nuclear facility triggered the Islamic Republic into enriching uranium at levels nearer to weapons grade. Iran insists that the heavy metal will be used for medical purposes only.
Adnan Tabatabai, CEO of the Bonn-based Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient, said Araghchi’s comments showed “there are clear steps ahead.” Despite the recent attacks on an enrichment site, “Iran is still sending promising signals and they wouldn’t be doing that if there wasn’t something promising in the making,” he added.
Abandonment of the landmark deal in 2018 by the U.S., and reimposition of sanctions by then-President Donald Trump, pushed relations between the longstanding foes toward a breaking point. It’s also convulsed the Persian Gulf with assassinations, attacks on energy installations, and tanker seizures in a major global choke-point for oil supplies.
In 2019 Iran responded to Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure” strategy by gradually increasing its atomic activity, beyond the limits allowed in the nuclear deal. The Islamic Republic started enriching uranium to 60% for the first time on Friday, after the April 11 attack on Natanz, which it blames on Israel.
President Joe Biden has pledged to return the U.S. to the accord, but his administration has been reluctant to make any grand gestures or agree to remove sanctions all at once, something Iran insists Washington must do as the party that first violated the deal.
While the U.S. is yet to comment on the latest talks, which will resume on Sunday, the European Union and Russia, which along with China are trying help the two countries choreograph the restoration of the deal and full compliance to its terms, echoed Araghchi’s cautious optimism.
Enrique Mora, who’s leading the talks in Vienna on behalf of the EU, tweeted that the discussions had been “intensive,” and that “progress has been made in a far from easy task,” adding that the group needed to now focus on more detailed work, without elaborating.
It was “key” that all the parties are committed to seeing the U.S. rejoin the accord and that it’s fully implemented by both Washington and Tehran, said Mora.
Russia’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mikhail Ulyanov, said that the countries would continue working over the weekend and into next week as they agreed to “not waste time” and reach a successful outcome “as soon as possible”.©2021 Bloomberg L.P. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC