Iran nuclear deal talks enter ‘endgame’

A breakdown or a breakthrough in negotiations is expected within days

epa04845906 (FILE) A file picture dated 03 February 2007 shows an Iranian technecian at the International Atomic Energy Agency inspecting the site of the uranium conversion plan of Isfahan, central Iran. Foreign ministers from six world powers and Iran finally achieved an agreement to prevent the Islamic republic from developing nuclear weapons, Western diplomats said in Vienna on 14 July 2015.  EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH *** Local Caption *** 52054282
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Talks aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have entered the “endgame” stage and a conclusion is imminent, Britain said.

Stephanie Al-Qaq, the UK Foreign Office’s director of the Middle East and North Africa department, on Tuesday suggested the discussions in Vienna could come to a close within days.

“Now in the endgame of this negotiation. Time for us to conclude,” she said.

Discussions aimed at bringing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action back to life have been going on in Vienna since late last year.

The accord collapsed after Donald Trump pulled the US out in 2018. During his campaign for the White House, the former US president had repeatedly criticised the agreement negotiated by the Barack Obama administration, calling it the “worst deal ever”.

Last week, negotiators said the talks would end this week.

“By next week, we should know if there will be a deal or not,” Ali Vaez, director of the Iran programme at the International Crisis Group, told the Diplomatic, a foreign policy analysis blog. “Either breakdown or breakthrough.”

The talks dragged on for months, broken by a long gap last year as a hardline new government took power in Tehran.

The current eighth round started after Christmas.

This month, diplomats from Iran and the remaining parties to the agreement – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – headed back to the table after a break of about a week. The US is participating indirectly in the talks.

The Biden administration has vowed to try to restart the deal, much to the dismay of Israel, Iran’s rival.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said his nation would not be bound by any agreement between world powers and Iran, leaving it room to manoeuvre militarily.

US President Joe Biden has signalled he wishes to revive the nuclear deal after his predecessor Donald Trump pulled America out. AP Photo

After withdrawing from the pact that granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme, Mr Trump reimposed heavy penalties on Iran.

Tehran responded by increasing the purity and amount of uranium it enriches and stockpiles, in breach of the accord.

Updated: February 22, 2022, 1:03 PM