Russia says Vienna talks ‘good but not easy’

May 16, 2021 - 18:54

TEHRAN – A senior Russian diplomat participating in the Vienna nuclear talks has said the negotiations are making progress but with difficulty. 

Russian ambassador to the Vienna-based international organizations Mikhail Ulyanov said the negotiating partners are conducting talks in various informal settings. 

“So far so good but not easy. The work on restoration of the JCPOA continues, including during this weekend,” the Russian diplomat said on Twitter. 

He added, “The Vienna talks on JCPOA are conducted in various informal settings, as well as in the working groups on sanctions lifting, nuclear issues and practical measures to restore the deal. The drafting process is underway. If the need arises a Joint Commission can be convened.”

Diplomats from Iran and the P4+1 group of countries as well as the U.S. are in Vienna to discuss the measures needed to be taken to bring Tehran and Washington back into full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Almost all parties to the negotiations said progress was made during the talks, though this progress did not amount to a complete revival of the JCPOA.

Iran is in close contact with China and Russia as well as the three European signatories to the JCPOA. On Friday, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi, who is leading the Iranian negotiating team in Vienna, met with the Chinese envoy to the Vienna talks, Wang Qun. During the meeting, the two diplomats discussed the latest developments concerning the talks.

Also on Friday, the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Russian Federation, Kazem Jalali, met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. The meeting focused on the current situation surrounding the nuclear deal. The two sides also stressed the importance of coordination and efforts of all members of the JCPOA for a sustainable implementation of the nuclear deal in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231.

During the meeting, Jalali praised Russia's “principled and rational stance in support of the JCPOA and UNSC Resolution 2231 and its opposition to the illegal U.S. actions and sanctions” against Iran.

The fourth round of Vienna nuclear talks began in early May when negotiators from Iran and the P4+1 groups of countries as well as the U.S. returned to the Austrian capital after a short stay in capitals which included briefing and consultation meetings with senior officials.

Shortly after the beginning of the fourth round, Iran expressed readiness to extend a technical deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency giving the UN nuclear watchdog access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. The February deal is set to expire on May 21. But Iran said it is open to discussing an extension of the deal. 

Araghchi had told Japanese broadcaster NHK that Iran hopes enough progress will be made so that there will be no need for an extension. But he said that if needed, Iran will consider an extension at a proper time.

The February deal between Iran and the IAEA allowed the latter to continue its monitoring access to Iranian nuclear sites ahead of the implementation of a parliamentary nuclear law obligating the Iranian government to strictly restrict cooperation with the IAEA in case the West failed to lift sanctions.

The deal was reached during a two-day visit by IAEA Director-General Mariano Grossi to Iran. During the visit, Grossi met with Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Under the deal, Iran and the IAEA agreed: “1. That Iran continues to implement fully and without limitation its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA as before. 2. To a temporary bilateral technical understanding, compatible with the Law, whereby the IAEA will continue with its necessary verification and monitoring activities for up to 3 months (as per technical annex). 3. To keep the technical understanding under regular review to ensure it continues to achieve its purposes.”

The deal was reached only two days before Iran started the implementation of the nuclear law.

The parliamentary law stipulates that the Iranian government should take certain nuclear measures such as raising the level of uranium enrichment to 20% and suspending the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol if the Western parties failed to honor their obligations under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, announced last week that extending Iran’s cooperation deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency is one of the country’s options. He made the remarks a day after the top Iranian negotiator signaled a readiness to extend the deal.
Khatibzadeh elaborated on Araghchi’s comments, underlining that what Araghchi said was that the parliamentary nuclear law was binding and it will expire on May 30.

Speaking at a weekly press conference, Khatibzadeh said, “What Dr. Araghchi said in the interview with NHK is that the law of the parliament is binding and the date of May 30 regarding the agreement between Iran and the IAEA is definitive.”

The spokesman said Iran is not in a hurry to reach a conclusion in the Vienna talks but at the same time it seeks to prevent them from becoming draining.

“We do not want any date to prevent Tehran’s executive instructions from being strictly implemented for the negotiating team,” he pointed out. “In this interview, Dr. Araghchi pointed to only one of the choices for the date of May 21. If the talks are on the right track, with the coordination of both parties and Tehran’s approval, this date can be extended.”
Ulyanov has also told Laura Rozen that the deal has a good chance to be extended. 

“I think the February understandings most likely have a good chance to be extended,” he said, adding, “But, as of the moment, our task is different- we need to reach an agreement on restoration of JCPOA by 21 May.”

However, Ulyanov later said on Twitter that the Vienna talks make progress and the negotiators aim at completing the process as soon as possible. “Hopefully by May 21. It’s very difficult but doable,” he said.

SM/PA

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