Iran sets the stage for a deal in Vienna

TEHRAN, Dec. 28 (MNA) – Iran’s negotiating team led by Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani arrived in Vienna on Monday after the relatively short break meant to undertake consultations in capitals.

With the Vienna talks kinking in again, Iran has moved to voice its expectations from other parties, especially the European trio – France, Germany and Britain (E3). During the last round, the E3, particularly France, played an unconstructive role in the talks, preventing the negotiators, at least in one case, from hammering out a document that was to serve as the basis for the next round of talks. 

The first round of talks under President Ebrahim Raisi began in late November. Since then, two rounds have been held with the current round being the third or based on the European perception, the eighth.

During the two last rounds, Iran presented two proposals on nuclear and sanctions-related measures despite a Western accusation of not being serious and playing for time. The Europeans first rejected the Iranian proposals though they were drafted in strict conformity with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). But then were forced to incorporate the Iranian proposals into the two final documents reached at the end of the last round. 

A source familiar with the talks told Iran’s state news agency IRNA that France played a “disruptive” role in the previous round. According to the source, when the French delegation was absent from the talks due to France’s participation in the G7 ministerial summit in Liverpool, “significant progress” was made on preparing the drafts. But the French representative returned to the talks after a two-day absence and “a disruptive trend started again,” according to the source.

The source said the drafts were acceptable to all parties but the French negotiators opposed the drafts and “the course of the talks was disrupted.”

In addition to the French unconstructive role, the Europeans, together with the US, sought to create a sense of urgency by announcing self-imposed deadlines. Iran, however, said that it will not fall into the trap of “factitious deadlines.” Quoting a source with knowledge about the talks, IRNA said Iran’s negotiating team will stay in Vienna as long as there is a need. 

Iran has also positively engaged in the talks and some progress was made in the nuclear sphere which is germane to Iran. But little has been achieved on the sanctions issue on which the US should play a major role. Despite overall progress, the Europeans tend to portray the atmosphere in Vienna as gloomy. The Western parties are trying to keep the media environment around the talks negative by issuing statements and comments on the content of the talks, in order to put pressure on the Iranian delegation to get concessions, and on the other hand to blame Iran for the possible lack of progress.

This is while Iran has positively engaged and that the ball is in the West’s court. But instead of engaging positively, the West continues to foster an atmosphere of urgency regarding the JCPOA. 

Recently, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed that the window is closing to resuscitate the 2015 deal. “I’m not going to put a time limit on it or give you the number of meters remaining on the runway, except to say, yes, it is getting very, very, very short,” Blinken said. 

US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley set the time frame to save the JCPOA at “weeks.”

Some observers believe that if the US believes there is an urgency to reach a deal with Iran, then it should relinquish the so-called “maximum pressure” campaign initiated by former US President Donald Trump. But the Biden administration not only refused to give up the campaign but also added to the sanctions on Iran. Furthermore, US officials even began threatening Iran with a military option in case diplomacy failed. US and Israeli officials have held talks to discuss “alternatives.” Some believe that Israeli-American talk of other options reflects a strategic confusion on the past of Washington and Tel Aviv vis-à-vis Iran’s measured and calibrated moves on the ground and at the negotiating table. 

First published in Tehran Times

News Code 182273

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