After a round marked by tensions over new demands from Tehran, talks aimed at rescuing Iran’s shattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers were deferred Friday to allow the Iranian negotiator to travel home for deliberations.
It was a “disappointing pause,” according to European diplomats, and negotiators in Vienna are “rapidly approaching the end of the road.” They did, however, mention “some technical progress” so far.
A senior US official involved in the talks conveyed his dissatisfaction as well. “It was better than it could have been, but it was worse than it should have been,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to reporters. “It leaves us in an uncertain position as to whether we can get where we need to go in the short time that we have left to get there.”
Participants stated that they intend to restart as soon as possible, however no specific date has been set. Wan Qun, China’s chief negotiator, said the discussions will “hopefully resume before the end of the year.” “I hope it will be during 2021,” said Enrique Mora, the European Union ambassador who oversaw the negotiations.
The latest discussions in Vienna among the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA began on Nov. 29 after a five-month hiatus created by Iran’s new hard-line government. Last week, there was a brief hiatus while delegations returned home to discuss with their governments.
Because the US withdrew from the agreement in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, it has only had an indirect role in the ongoing talks. President Joe Biden has expressed his desire to rejoin the agreement.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us in the eighth round, a very complex task, I must say,” Mora remarked. “Difficult political choices must be made.”
Down exchange for easing economic sanctions, the agreement was supposed to reign in Iran’s nuclear program. The deal still includes the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China.
The three Western European powers’ negotiators said they “respect” Iranian negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani’s decision to return to Tehran, despite the fact that it “brings a disappointing pause in negotiations.” They stated that the other parties were willing to continue the negotiations and that “this negotiation is becoming increasingly urgent.”
“There has been some technical progress in the last 24 hours, but this only brings us closer to where the talks stood in June,” they added after voicing frustration twice during the recent sessions.
Following the United States’ decision to pull out of the deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran, Tehran has resumed its nuclear program, enriching uranium far beyond the agreement’s permitted levels. Iran has also barred UN atomic watchdog monitors from entering its nuclear sites, increasing fears about what the government is doing behind closed doors.
Diplomats from the three European countries stated earlier this week that they were “wasting valuable time dealing with new Iranian positions that are inconsistent with or go beyond the JCPOA.”