AP – Negotiators from Iran, the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) resumed months-long, indirect talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal yesterday, even as international inspectors acknowledged the Islamic Republic began a new expansion of its uranium enrichment.
The resumption of the Vienna talks, suddenly called on Wednesday, appears not to include high-level representation from all the countries part of Iran’s 2015 deal with world powers.
That comes as Western officials express growing scepticism over a deal to restore the accord and the EU’s top diplomat has warned “the space for additional significant compromises has been exhausted”.
Iran’s top negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani met with EU mediator Enrique Mora, Iranian media reported. As in other talks, the US will not directly negotiate with Iran.
Instead, the two sides will speak through Mora.
US Special Representative for Iran Rob Malley also was on hand, tweeting on Wednesday that “our expectations are in check”.
Mora also met yesterday with Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, who has represented Moscow’s interests in the talks. Ulyanov also separately met with Bagheri Kani.
“As always we had a frank, pragmatic and constructive exchange of views on ways and means of overcoming the last outstanding issues,” Ulyanov wrote on Twitter.
But going into the negotiations, Iran laid out a maximalist stance. Through its state-run IRNA news agency, Tehran denied that it had abandoned its effort to get America to delist its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organisation as a precondition to a deal. That has been a main sticking point.
Meanwhile, IRNA also quoted its civilian nuclear chief as saying turned-off surveillance cameras of the International Atomic Energy Agency only would be switched back on once the West abandons an effort to investigate manmade traces of uranium found at previously undisclosed sites at the country. Those positions could doom the talks.
Iranian officials had been trying to offer optimistic assessments of the negotiations while alternately blaming the US for the deadlock, likely worried a collapse of the talks could see its currency plunge to new historic lows.
Iran struck the nuclear deal in 2015 with the US, France, Germany, the UK, Russia and China.
The deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium under the watch of United Nations (UN) inspectors in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.