Iran nuclear talks to resume next week with faster pace, EU says

Israel’s prime minister says outcome will have ‘profound ramifications’ for security

An Iranian man passes an anti-US mural on the wall of the former US embassy in Tehran. EPA
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Talks aimed at reviving the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal will resume next Monday, the EU diplomat leading the negotiations has said.

“Vienna talks to resume on Monday, 27 December. The ... joint commission will meet to discuss and define the way ahead,” Enrique Mora wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

“Important to pick up the pace on key outstanding issues and move forward, working closely with the US. Welcome to the 8th round,” Mr Mora wrote.

Earlier this month, Mr Mora said “we don't have all the time in the world" to resurrect the deal but said all sides had shown “a renewed sense of purpose in the need to work and to reach an agreement”.

Meetings between Iranian officials and the West restarted in November after a five-month hiatus to try to restore the deal, which was to offer Iran sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear programme.

Diplomats from parties to the deal – China, Britain, France, Germany and Russia – are taking part in talks in Vienna, Austria, with Iran and the US.

Tehran and Washington have refused to have direct contact at the talks.

US negotiator Rob Malley on Tuesday warned of a “period of escalating crisis” if diplomacy failed to restore the agreement.

Iran says it wants to develop only a civilian nuclear capability, but western powers say its stockpile of enriched uranium goes well beyond that and could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.

On Wednesday, Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to US President Joe Biden, met Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to call for a “common strategy” in the talks.

Mr Bennett said the outcome of the negotiations would have “profound ramifications” for the security of Israel, Iran’s arch-enemy.

His administration is firmly opposed to international efforts to revive the deal.

Mr Biden sent Mr Sullivan on a 30-hour visit to Jerusalem and the occupied Palestinian territories to update Israel on developments in the Iran nuclear talks, the White House said.

"We're not circling a date on the calendar in public, but I can tell you that behind closed doors we are talking about time frames and they are not long,” Mr Sullivan said.

Asked to elaborate on the timeline, Mr Sullivan said: "Weeks."

Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said negotiators have only weeks left to resurrect the Iran nuclear deal. Reuters

Israel has long hinted that it could resort to pre-emptive strikes against its sworn enemy if diplomatic efforts to disarm Iran of its nuclear abilities end in tatters.

But security experts have expressed doubts over whether the country has the military capability to effectively stop Iran’s nuclear programme in its tracks on its own, or if the US would back its moves.

Mr Sullivan said the Biden administration continues to believe that "diplomacy, deterrence and pressure" are the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

He said that in his meeting with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem, "we discussed means of ensuring that we are holding the international community together to maintain the pressure on Iran to live up to its obligations and to come back into compliance" with the 2015 pact.

"And in terms of operational matters, I think those are best left for private diplomatic discussions between the United States and Israel," he said.

Updated: December 23, 2021, 1:46 PM