Iran nuclear talks on brink of ‘collapse’, Europeans say

Iran claims Europeans are playing the 'blame game habit instead of real diplomacy'

The Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna. Reuters

Britain, France and Germany said on Tuesday that Iran was running out of time to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal and said protracted negotiations to revive it were headed for “collapse”.

Issuing a joint statement, France’s UN envoy Nicolas de Riviere said Iran was undercutting talks to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by walking back “hard-fought compromises” and issuing “maximalist demands”.

“We are nearing the point where Iran’s escalation of its nuclear programme will have completely hollowed out the JCPOA,” Mr de Riviere told reporters.

“Iran has to choose between the collapse of the JCPOA and a fair and comprehensive deal, for the benefit of the Iranian people and nation.”

Addressing the UN Security Council later, US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Iran was taking “vague, unrealistic, maximalist and unconstructive positions” during talks in Vienna.

“Iran is almost out of runway,” she said.

“Iran’s continued nuclear advancements and their lack of urgency in the talks are hollowing out the non-proliferation benefits that would be achieved by a mutual return to full JCPOA compliance.”

The UN’s head of political affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, told council members that reviving the deal would “require additional effort and patience” but added that the endeavour “was worth it”.

Earlier on Tuesday, Iran’s envoy to the talks, Ali Bagheri Kani, accused his western counterparts of playing their “blame game habit instead of real diplomacy”.

“We proposed our ideas early and worked constructively and flexibly to narrow gaps,” he said.

Iran agreed in 2015 to limit its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of western and UN sanctions in a deal involving Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US.

Western powers feared Iran’s activities would be used to build nuclear weapons, though this has been denied by Tehran.

In 2018, the US president at the time, Donald Trump, unilaterally exited the deal and reimposed sanctions. Iran began winding back the deal’s nuclear restrictions about a year later.

His successor, President Joe Biden, said he was willing to re-enter the pact and several rounds of indirect talks have taken place in Vienna so far.

Updated: December 14th 2021, 11:03 PM