Good progress made but key issues remain unresolved in Vienna talks, Iran says

May 31, 2021 - 19:8

TEHRAN – Spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh has echoed the assessment of Iran’s top nuclear negotiator that the Vienna nuclear talks are moving forward but key issues remain unresolved. 

Speaking at a weekly press conference on Monday, Khatibzadeh said the talks in Vienna have reached “key points” and that there has been no stalemate in the talks, adding that good and significant progress has been made, but key issues remain unresolved.

“I have already stated the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran. We conduct the negotiations and discussions in Vienna with the necessary care and obsession. Each round could have been the last round, but because of some remaining issues, the talks have been moved to the next round,” Khatibzadeh explained. 

The spokesman was commenting on the recent remarks by Russia’s ambassador to the Vienna-based international organizations Mikhail Ulyanov who has said the current round of talks could be the last round.

Ulyanov’s comments came amid intensive nuclear talks in Vienna between Iran and the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The fifth round of nuclear talks in Vienna between Iran and the remaining parties to the JCPOA was resumed on May 25.

Responding to a Twitter user’s question on when the next round of talks would begin, on Sunday Ulyanov tweeted, “The fifth round of the Vienna talks on JCPOA is under way. As of now, there are no plans for the sixth. The negotiators proceed from the understanding that the current round should be final.”

Khatibzadeh said the fifth round can be the last round if the remaining key issues are resolved. 

“If the remaining key issues are resolved, it could be the last round, but if it is not, it will continue. The Vienna talks have made good and significant progress in all three working groups, but key issues remain. These issues must also be addressed carefully,” he said. “All JCPOA-related sanctions must be lifted and Verified. This verification will take place in the formulas discussed in Vienna, and then Iran will reverse its compensatory measures.”

The spokesman also underlined that there is no stalemate in the Vienna talks.

“There is no deadlock in the Vienna talks, and the talks have reached key points, and key issues need to be decided, and this requires its own care, obsession and time. We do not allow dialogue to become protracted, nor do we rush,” Khatibzadeh said, adding, “Our criterion is to ensure the highest interests of the people and the system. Our team carefully follows the instructions from the center. The United States must decide whether to continue Trump's failed legacy or turn the page and return to its commitments under the JCPOA, and if that happens, Iran's response is the full implementation of the JCPOA. The JCPOA is what is written, neither more nor less.”

Khatibzadeh further said that the U.S. should lift all the sanctions the Trump administration imposed on Iran with the aim of depriving Iran of the benefits envisioned in the JCPOA. 

“Iran's position is that all the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration against Iran, all with the aim of depriving Iran of JCPOA's interests and with the aim of destroying the JCPOA, are in complete contradiction with the spirit and words of the JCPOA,” the spokesman stated. 

He continued, “The opinion of the U.S. negotiating team, which was conveyed to us through the Joint Commission, is that this is not their opinion on some of these issues. We made our views clear and decisive. Certainly, in some key issues, serious decisions have to be made. I think we are at the point where certain decisions need to be made on some issues. The route we took was based on the same instructions we announced from day one.”

Khatibzadeh also responded to remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken who has said the U.S. seeks to strengthen and lengthen the JCPOA as well as address regional issues.

“Instead of trying to appease the sworn enemy of the JCPOA, they should return to their commitments under United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA. The only solution on the table is the JCPOA, which was signed in 2015, and that is the best thing the current U.S. administration can think of,” the spokesman pointed out, adding, “If there are other issues to even think about, there is a long list of destructive actions by the United States and its allies in the region, and if the United States is willing to talk about them, it certainly has a long list of actions.”

Khatibzadeh has already responded to Blinken’s remarks, warning against the danger of appeasing the JCPOA’s sworn enemy that is Israel. He had said in a tweet that the foreign ministers of the U.S. and the UK are trying to appease the sworn enemy of the nuclear deal.

“To appease the sworn enemy of JCPOA, UK/US FMs spin goals of Vienna Talks. Disappointing! The brutal Israeli regime you try to placate has done its utmost to torpedo the deal. Instead of eroding your credibility, focus on reviving the original deal—the ONLY solution on the table,” Khatibzadeh said on Twitter. 

The spokesman was responding to remarks by UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken who both had called for a “stronger” deal with Iran during separate visits to Israel. 

During his visit to Israel, which came after the recent flare-up between the Gaza Strip and Israel, Blinken said the U.S. is seeking a “longer and stronger” deal with Iran. 

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, Blinken said, “if Iran returns to compliance with the deal, we would do the same. 

We would also seek to make it, as we say, longer and stronger.  And we’d also work hard to engage the other issues where Iran is a very dangerous and problematic actor for us and for Israel – destabilizing activities in the region, proliferation of weapons, support for terrorist groups, et cetera.  All of those things.”

Raab also echoed the same thing during his visit to Israel. After a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, Raab said the UK is committed to achieving a “stronger” deal with Iran.

“Reiterated the United Kingdom commitment to a two-state solution, the importance of a stronger nuclear deal with Iran & our commitment to Israel’s security in my meeting with @Gabi_Ashkenazi today. Vital we make progress towards a more positive future for Israelis and Palestinians,” Raab said on Twitter.

The remarks came as the fifth round of nuclear talks in Vienna between Iran and the remaining parties to the JCPOA were resumed on Tuesday.  Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi visited the Austrian capital for nuclear talks that are aimed to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Araqchi has said progress has been made in the current round of nuclear talks but there are issues that remain unresolved. 

He said, “All parties are still serious and have taken these talks seriously, many delegations are hoping that this round can be the last round of talks and we will reach a conclusion. You can have such hope, but you have to be a little bit cautious. The issues that remain to be finalized and decided are still important issues, although their number has decreased and we have made great strides in writing the text in previous periods. We can move forward further, but the few issues that remain are still key issues that need to be decided.”

The top nuclear negotiator pointed out, “One should still speak cautiously about whether this round can be the last round or not. We hope to be able to do this as soon as possible, but we are looking for an agreement that meets our definite demands and positions that have been repeatedly mentioned before. We have been seriously involved in these talks, and the experts with me will participate in the working groups, and we will take the discussions seriously, and we hope to be able to make faster progress than in the past.”

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