Inside JCPOA Friday talks 

April 9, 2021 - 21:14

TEHRAN – The negotiating teams of Iran and the U.S. are present in the Austrian capital to discuss ways to get the 2015 Iran nuclear deal back on track, a move that requires Washington to articulate its measures in that regard.

The nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is once again being revived after more than three years of American pressure that brought it closer to total collapse during the Trump administration. 

The latest meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission, a group comprised of Iran and the P4+1 responsible for overseeing the implementation of the deal, was held on Friday. 

During the meeting, participants received a report from the two newly-established expert groups, which were put together on Wednesday to conduct technical talks over how to revive the JCPOA and what measures are needed to be done by Iran and the U.S. in this regard. One of the groups is tasked with specifying the sanctions that the U.S. should lift to revive the deal while the other is discussing how to reverse the nuclear measures taken by Iran in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA.

Receiving a report about these groups’ technical talks was the most important agenda of the Friday meeting, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday shortly after the meeting was concluded. 

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi, who leads Iran’s negotiation team, underlined during the meeting Iran’s willingness to continue “serious interactions” but said that hinges on witnessing “political will and seriousness” on part of the other sides. “Otherwise, there will be no reason to continue negotiations,” he warned.

Araghchi reiterated that the lifting of all U.S. sanctions imposed during the previous U.S. administration was a necessary step in reviving the JCPOA, and that only after verification of the lifting of these sanctions Iran would be ready to suspend its remedial measures and fully return to JCPOA.

At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that the next meeting of the Commission at the level of deputies and political directors to be held next Wednesday in Vienna. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said the Wednesday meeting will immediately be followed by technical and specialized intensive negotiations in the framework of expert groups to prepare a list of nuclear and sanctions measures that should be done by all parties to revive the JCPOA. 

Enrique Mora, the European Union’s coordinator and the chairman of the JCPOA Joint Commission, also issued a statement following the meeting. 

“Participants took stock of the discussions held at various levels since the last Joint Commission in view of a possible return of the US to the JCPOA and discussed modalities to ensure the return to its full and effective implementation. The Joint Commission was briefed on the work of the two expert groups on sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures and participants noted the constructive and results oriented exchanges,” Mora said, adding that the coordinator will continue his separate contacts with all JCPOA participants and the United States.

According to Mora, the Joint Commission tasked expert groups to continue their work and agreed to reconvene in Vienna in the course of next week.

From Iran’s point of view, the ongoing negotiations pursue one simple goal: the lifting of U.S. unilateral sanctions. Iran has made it clear that it wants a verifiable removal of sanctions. Iran’s roadmap to revive the nuclear deal was summed up by the country’s top diplomat. 

“Iran proposes logical path to full JCPOA compliance: -U.S.—which caused this crisis—should return to full compliance first; -Iran will reciprocate following rapid verification; -All Trump sanctions were anti-JCPOA & must be removed—w/o distinction between arbitrary designations,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Friday. 

Iran has announced at the highest levels that only after verifying the U.S. lifting of sanctions it will return to JCPOA commitments. This policy will not be violated in any way, according to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei. 

“This policy is that the Americans should lift all sanctions. After that, we will verify. If the sanctions have been lifted, we will return to our JCPOA commitments. We will return without any problem. This is a definite policy,” the Leader said in a televised speech delivered on March 21.

The issue of verifications has turned into a focal point in the negotiation. Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to international organizations in Vienna, provided more details on what Iran means by verification. 

In an interview with, he said that “the meaning of verifications is that for example, the Islamic Republic should be able to sign its oil contracts and export its oil, and transfer its revenues through banking channels to the country or consider other uses for it. Or in the banking sector, it should be able to perform its financial transactions through various financial channels. Only then can it be assured that the lifting of sanctions will have practical effects.”

Sorting sanctions out is another point of contention. Iran has insisted that the U.S. should remove all the sanctions that were imposed, reimposed, or relabeled under Trump. 

Sources closely monitoring the Vienna talks told Al Araby Al Jadeed that Iran demanded that the U.S. lift at least 1,600 sanctions imposed all at once. 

The sources added that the Vienna talks on Friday did not make a major breakthrough, and the views of the American and Iranian sides are still wide. However, they revealed that Washington has, in principle, shown flexibility in lifting sanctions that are inconsistent with the nuclear deal, but regarding the issue of naming these sanctions, which should be lifted, there is still a deep disagreement between the Iranian and American sides, as Washington does not see that some of the sanctions imposed by former President Donald Trump on Iran, under counterterrorism authorities, are inconsistent with the nuclear deal, while Tehran stresses the need to lift the 1,600 sanctions imposed on it altogether.

The issue of how and what sanctions should be lifted is still under discussion but the U.S. needs to understand that Iran is determined to get the sanctions lifted – and verified- altogether. Moreover, the U.S. should announce the sanctions that it will lift if it really wants to pursue diplomacy with Iran.

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