Iran detects new 'realism' from West in nuclear talks

Tehran is standing steadfast on its requirement that the West lifts sanctions on the country

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, leaves the Coburg Palais in Vienna, where nuclear deal talks are taking place. AFP

Iran said on Monday that it has detected a new “realism” on the part of western countries, as further meetings in Vienna aimed at rescuing an agreement on its nuclear programme began.

Negotiations to restore the 2015 accord between Tehran and world powers began last year but stopped in June as Iran elected ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi to the presidency.

The talks resumed in late November and the latest round was set to formally begin on Monday after a three-day break for the end-of-year holidays.

Tehran's chief negotiator, Ali Bagheri, met EU co-ordinator Enrique Mora, Iran's state news agency IRNA reported on Monday evening.

Mr Bagheri held a separate meeting with top negotiators from the European parties to the deal, the agency added.

Monday's meetings were “informal”, Russia's envoy in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said on Twitter.

The meetings came hours after Tehran detected what it called a sense of “realism” from western parties.

“We sense a retreat, or rather realism from the western parties in the Vienna negotiations, that there can be no demands beyond the nuclear accord,” Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters.

However, “it is too early to judge if the United States and the three European countries have drawn up a real agenda to commit to lifting sanctions”, he said.

The 2015 deal offered Iran much-needed relief from sanctions that have destroyed its economy in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

But former US president Donald Trump's unilateral withdrawal from the deal in 2018 prompted Tehran to walk back its commitments.

“Today is the time for the opposing parties to show their commitment and show that we can progress in the area of lifting sanctions, of guarantees and verification, on which we have made little progress,” the spokesman said.

Iran's top negotiator said last week that the current round of talks has seen “relatively satisfactory progress” and expressed hope that “more serious work will continue on the question of lifting sanctions”, after the three-day break.

On Thursday, Washington voiced concern over a new Iranian space launch last week but indicated it was still pursuing diplomacy to return to a nuclear deal.

“The United States remains concerned with Iran's development of space-launch vehicles, which pose a significant proliferation concern,” a State Department representative said.

Mr Trump's successor, President Joe Biden, backs a return to the nuclear deal, with Washington indirectly taking part in the European-brokered negotiations on reviving the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Iran's nuclear programme was effectively constrained by the JCPOA,” the State Department representative said. “That is why we are seeking a mutual return to full compliance with the deal.”

Updated: January 4th 2022, 7:32 AM