Iran criticises nuclear deal 'blame game' at Vienna talks

European diplomats had said that time was running out amid new demands by Tehran

Iran’s envoy to the talks, Ali Bagheri Kani is seen leaving the Coburg Palais in Vienna, venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action meeting. AFP

Iran has criticised western signatories to its 2015 nuclear deal for “persisting in their blame game” after European diplomats hit out at Tehran’s intransigence during negotiations in Vienna to resurrect the accord.

Officials from France, Germany and the UK on Monday said they were losing “precious time” because of new demands from Iranian negotiators that are inconsistent with the 2015 deal Tehran signed with China, the EU, Russia, the US and the three European powers.

“As of this moment, we still have not been able to get down to real negotiations,” the European diplomats said.

Iran’s envoy to the talks, Ali Bagheri Kani, said in response: “Some actors persist in their blame game habit, instead of real diplomacy. We proposed our ideas early, and worked constructively and flexibly to narrow gaps.”

Mr Kani, referring to the US withdrawal from the pact in 2018, said: “Diplomacy is a two-way street. If there's real will to remedy the culprit's wrongdoing, the way for a quick, good deal will be paved.”

The Vienna negotiations resumed earlier this month after a hiatus that began in June amid Iranian presidential elections that brought conservative Ebrahim Raisi to power. He appointed Mr Kani to lead Iran's Vienna delegation, which has been accused of making new and maximalist demands.

In 2018, US president Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 accord and reintroduced heavy sanctions on Iran that had been lifted in return for curbs on the Iranian nuclear programme.

In response, Tehran has repeatedly violated the terms of the accord, accelerated its nuclear enrichment and restricted the UN’s atomic watchdog from inspecting its facilities.

The European diplomats said the situation was frustrating because the outline of a “comprehensive and fair agreement” that removes all sanctions related to the nuclear deal while addressing non-proliferation concerns had been visible during the negotiations earlier this year.

“Time is running out,” they said. “Without swift progress, in light of Iran’s fast-forwarding of its nuclear programme, the (2015 deal) will very soon become an empty shell.”

The administration of Mr Trump’s successor Joe Biden, which has been indirectly involved in the Vienna talks, has signalled it wants to return to the deal. But it has also said that time is running out.

“We continue at this hour, on this day to pursue diplomacy because it remains at this moment the best option, but we are actively engaging with allies and partners on alternatives,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Addressing the UN Security Council later on Tuesday, UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo, who is American, said reviving the deal would "require additional effort and patience" but added that the endeavour "was worth it".

Updated: December 14th 2021, 8:28 PM