Iran calls for resumption of nuclear talks ‘as soon as possible’

Tehran says the pause in Vienna talks is not in anyone's interest

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh speaks to media at a press conference in Tehran, on Monday. AFP

Iran has called for a new meeting “as soon as possible” amid stalled talks in Vienna aimed at restoring its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

“It is appropriate that a face-to-face meeting is held as soon as possible,” foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said at his weekly press conference on Monday.

“It is not yet decided where and when to have this meeting and at what level it should be held, but it is on the agenda.”

Tehran has been engaged in negotiations with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia directly and the US indirectly to revive the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The 2015 deal gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme to guarantee that Tehran could not develop a nuclear weapon, something it has always denied wanting to do.

The US unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 under former president Donald Trump and reimposed economic sanctions, tightening them across multiple sections of Iran's economy with a focus on energy exports, a strategy known as Maximum Pressure. That prompted Iran to begin rolling back its own commitments.

Mr Khatibzadeh said Iran and the European Union agreed that “prolonging the pause in the negotiations is not in anyone's interest".

He added that the talks, which started a year go, “have not stopped and are continuing through the co-ordinator of the Vienna negotiations".

Iran and the US, adversaries for decades, have been exchanging views through the European co-ordinator of the Vienna talks, Enrique Mora.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, right, meeting Enrique Mora in Tehran in March. AFP

Technical issues

Mr Khatibzadeh said early this month that Iran will only return to Vienna to finalise an agreement, not to hold new negotiations.

Last week, Iran said that “technical issues” in the now-paused negotiations had been resolved, but “political” issues persist ahead of concluding any deal.

“Technical issues and discussions in the Vienna talks have been completed,” Mohammad Eslami, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

“Only political issues remain,” he said.

The Vienna talks have been paused since March 11 after Russia demanded guarantees that western sanctions imposed against it after its February 24 invasion of Ukraine would not damage its trade with Iran.

Among the key remaining sticking points is Iran's demand that Washington delist its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from a US terror list. The group has sponsored and trained radical militias across the Middle East, including groups accused of conducting attacks against civilians, notably Hezbollah in Lebanon, Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq and Houthi militias in Yemen.

The stalled talks on reviving a 2015 deal to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons have revealed tensions between Washington and Tehran as each side attempts to avoid blame if the year-long negotiations collapse.

Congress appears divided, with many Republicans saying that the deal will not address serious national security concerns including Iran's controversial ballistic missile programme, and what 49 of 50 Republican senators recently called Iran's “ongoing support for terrorism and its gross abuses of human rights".

Last week, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that “if Iran wants sanctions-lifting that goes beyond the JCPOA, they'll need to address concerns of ours that go beyond the JCPOA".

Updated: April 26, 2022, 3:02 PM
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