JCPOA talks continue as Raisi secures landslide victory

June 19, 2021 - 21:52

TEHRAN – In what appeared to be a diplomatic miscalculation, the UN nuclear watchdog’s chief has said that an agreement with Iran should be reached after the outcome of Iran’s presidential election is announced.

In remarks to Italian newspaper Repubblica, Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), called on the diplomats involved in the Vienna nuclear talks to wait until a new government in Iran is formed. The Vienna talks are mainly seeking to revive a 2015 nuclear deal formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Everyone knows that at this point, it is necessary to wait for the formation of a new government in Iran,” Grossi said in response to a question on the point to which the Vienna talks reached.

Grossi also pointed to the complications of the Vienna talks and said the revival of the JCPOA requires the political will of all parties. The director-general’s remarks raised eyebrows in Tehran as the IAEA chief is not in a position to make political remarks regarding the Vienna talks. Grossi’s predecessor, Yukiya Amano, always emphasized that the IAEA is not a member of the JCPOA and has only the task of verifying the fulfillment of Iran's nuclear obligations.

However, Grossi has made bizarre statements in favor of the United States, saying that the Vienna talks that have been going on in recent weeks have faced very complex and technical issues. He claimed that reaching an agreement on the revival of the JCPOA required the political will of all parties.

Grossi’s remarks also ran counter to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s stated position that what is happening in Vienna has nothing to do with Iran's elections and internal developments.

The first official response to Grossi came from Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi, who is leading the Iranian negotiating team in Vienna. Araqchi said Grossi has no clue about the political atmosphere in Iran.

“Mr. Grossi probably has no knowledge of political dynamism in Iran. Nuclear negotiations are a major foreign policy issue, and decisions are made at the highest levels of the system,” the Iranian diplomat said in an interview with Al Jazeera. “Reaching an agreement depends on meeting the key demands and resolving the fundamental concerns of the Islamic Republic, and whenever we reach such a point, an agreement will be reached, whether in this government or in the next government. Of course, I must say that we are now closer to an agreement than ever before, and I personally very much hope that an agreement will be reached in this government.”

He added, “Of course, the issues that are discussed at the negotiating tables should be addressed at the same desk, not in the media. However, I can generally say that the main problem with the negotiations is the approach of the Americans, who are unable to give up their excessive addiction to sanctions and still cannot understand that sanctions are a failed solution. As I said in one of my recent tweets, Trump is gone, but his illegal and criminal sanctions are still in place. As a matter of fact, the new U.S. administration has not yet stopped Trump's policy of maximum pressure and thinks that what Trump could not achieve with maximum threats and sanctions, they can achieve at the negotiating table. The negotiations that are currently underway are facing very complex and delicate technical issues, but what is needed to reach an agreement is the political will of all parties.”

Araqchi also pointed to the probable election of Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, underlining that Raisi appeared realistic and pragmatic on foreign policy issues.

There were some speculations that the Vienna talks could stop if Raisi won the presidential election. Raisi himself sought to allay these fears during the presidential debates, voicing support for the JCPOA and engagement with the international community.

Responding to a question on the election of Raisi, Araqchi noted, “Mr. Raisi's positions in the field of foreign policy, as expressed during the election campaign, reflect a realistic and interactive policy based on cooperation with the international community and constructive economic interaction. His positions on the JCPOA and the ongoing negotiations also reflect the same realism and pragmatism in foreign policy. I am sure that if he is elected, there will be no disruption in the negotiation process.”

The top Iranian nuclear negotiator underlined, “At the same time, I must say that it is the calculation of national interests that determines the success or failure of the negotiations. We are looking for the interests of the Iranian people and I am sure that whoever is elected president will pursue the same goal. In these negotiations, we count the interests of the country and the people, not the number of votes of the candidates. The policies set by the country's top authorities will determine the instructions of the Iranian negotiating team, and we will only move in that direction.”

Grossi’s remarks appeared to have required a meeting between Iran and the IAEA. Araqchi met with the IAEA chief on Friday while millions of Iranians flocked to polling stations to cast their votes. During the meeting, Araqchi and Grossi discussed the JCPOA negotiations and the role of the UN nuclear watchdog, according to Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA.

“Deputy Minister Araqchi and @rafaelmgrossi discussed today the latest developments around the JCPOA negotiations and possible assistance of the @iaeaorg in this process. They also reviewed mutual interactions and cooperation between Iran and the IAEA,” Gharibabadi said on Twitter.

While Araqchi had said Iran moves forward with the Vienna talks in accordance with its interests, Grossi implied that the talks may be delayed until after the Iranian election. This is while Grossi is not a party to the talks and Iran has said that the talks should not be subject to internal considerations.

Before heading to Vienna for another round of talks, Araqchi had stressed that Iran is looking for a good agreement and it will neither be in a rush nor will it waste time to reach such an agreement.

“We are looking for a good agreement for the Islamic Republic of Iran and we are not in a hurry or wasting time on this path. The sooner we get there, the better, of course. It is important that in this agreement the principles that Iran wants are observed and the indicators that we want to reach are included,” he said.

Besides, the main obstacle to reaching an agreement has not been the Iranian election. Instead, it was the U.S.'s refusal to make clear commitments that it will not back down on its word again, according to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Zarif also noted that the U.S. tries to exact more concessions from Iran at the negotiating table. He underlined that the U.S. cannot achieve at the negotiating table what it failed to through economic warfare. “I saw the latest edited text of the agreement. The text has become purer and purer. Parentheses are being removed. The main obstacle that remains is the issue of understanding these cases. The United States must come to terms with the fact that it was the parties who deliberately left the agreement, but their goal was not achieved. Now that they want to return to the agreement, they cannot achieve through the negotiating table a goal that was not achieved through economic warfare,” Zarif said at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey.

The Iranian foreign minister also pointed out that the main obstacle in Vienna is how to verify U.S. adherence to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
“The question that remains is how we can verify the fulfillment of U.S. commitments. The party that needs to reassure us is the United States, and that is an obstacle to the negotiations, and we are working on that right now,” he continued.

Zarif added, “The Biden administration has come to realize that the Trump administration's policies have failed, but it is still trying to use it as leverage, and that is why there is a perceptual problem. America must know that it is completely isolated. I do not trust Biden. In diplomacy, no one trusts others. No one trusts another in diplomacy. In diplomacy, you have to verify. You need to build trust and be predictable.”

Zarif pointed to Iran’s ability to reverse the remedial measures it taken in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018.

“If we go back to JCPOA, we must live up to our commitment to 3.67% enrichment, and if that does not happen soon, we have no restrictions on enrichment. Even now we can increase enrichment but we do not need it,” Zarif stated.

Iran has recently started 60% uranium enrichment at its Natanz nuclear enrichment plant as part of a calibrated policy designed to gradually reduce the country’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA nearly three years ago. The decision to increase the level of uranium enrichment was part of a broader strategy to reactivate Iran’s nuclear program, which has been under severe restrictions since the signing of the JCPOA in 2015.

SM/PA
 

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