Iran nuclear talks resume in Vienna after 5-month break

World powers and Iran gathered in Vienna on Monday to try to salvage their 2015 nuclear deal, but with Tehran sticking to its tough stance and Western powers increasingly frustrated, hopes of a breakthrough appear slim, Daily Sabah reports.

Diplomats said time is running out to resurrect the pact, which then-United States President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, angering Iran and dismaying the other powers involved – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June. The new round began after a hiatus triggered by the election of a new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi.

The European Union official chairing the Iran nuclear talks said on Monday that he had met Chinese, Russian and Iranian negotiators on Sunday and that he would meet the European and U.S. teams on Monday before formal talks later in the day.

"Intense preparatory work ongoing," Enrique Mora, the deputy secretary general of the EU's foreign service, said on Twitter from Vienna, where a seventh round of talks is due to start.

Tehran's new negotiating team has set out demands that U.S. and European diplomats consider unrealistic, Western diplomats say. They include insisting that all U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed since 2017, including those unrelated to Iran's nuclear program, be dropped.

In parallel, Tehran's conflicts with the United Nations atomic watchdog, which monitors the nuclear program, have festered. Iran has pressed ahead with its uranium enrichment program and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says its inspectors have been treated roughly and refused access to reinstall monitoring cameras at a site it deems essential to reviving the deal.

"If Iran thinks it can use this time to build more leverage and then come back and say they want something better, it simply won't work. We and our partners won't go for it," U.S. envoy Robert Malley told BBC Sounds on Saturday. He warned that Washington would be ready to ramp up pressure on Tehran if talks collapse.

Iranian officials have insisted in the run-up to Monday that their focus is purely the lifting of sanctions rather than nuclear issues. Highlighting that, its 40-strong delegation mostly includes economic officials.

"To ensure any forthcoming agreement is ironclad, the West needs to pay a price for having failed to uphold its part of the bargain. As in any business, a deal is a deal, and breaking it has consequences," Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani said in a defiant column in the Financial Times on Sunday. "The principle of 'mutual compliance' cannot form a proper base for negotiations since it was the U.S. government which unilaterally left the deal."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Said Khatibzadeh told reporters Monday that Iran is "firmly determined" to reach an agreement with major powers on salvaging its 2015 nuclear agreement.

"The delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran is in Vienna with a firm determination to reach an agreement and is looking forward to fruitful talks," Khatibzadeh was quoted by Agence France-Presse (AFP). "The government has shown its willingness and seriousness by sending a quality team known to all. If the other side shows the same willingness, we will be on the right track to reach an agreement."

"If the United States comes to Vienna with the determination to break the deadlock and overcome the problems on which we did not agree in previous rounds, the path of dialogue will certainly be easier," he added.

According to Reuters, diplomats have said Washington has suggested negotiating an open-ended interim accord with Tehran as long as a permanent deal is not achieved. Failure to strike a deal could also prompt reaction from Israel which has said military options would be on the table.

"The talks can't last forever. There is the obvious need to speed up the process,' Moscow's envoy Mikhail Ulyanov said on Twitter.


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