Iran insists ‘tough decisions’ needed to revive JCPOA as Vienna talks stumble

July 6, 2021 - 18:58

TEHRAN – Iran has once again underlined the need for the negotiating parties in Vienna, particularly the United States, to make difficult decisions regarding the revival of a 2015 nuclear deal. 

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has reiterated a previous call by Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Seyed Abbas Araqchi, for tough decisions concerning the Vienna nuclear talks, which aim to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

In a briefing statement on Tuesday, Khatibzadeh said, “The progress made in the Vienna talks is a fact acknowledged by all parties to the talks, although there are still important issues that largely need to be decided by the other parties, especially the United States. In fact, the finalization of the agreement to revive the JCPOA depends on the political will of the other parties to make tough decisions on their part.”

He added, “The delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran seeks to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible and to lift the cruel sanctions against the Iranian people. However, we do not set any deadline for reaching an agreement that serves the interests of the Iranian people and negotiations will continue until a desirable agreement for Iran is reached. As has been said many times, we are not in a hurry to reach an agreement, but we will not allow the negotiations to become draining and protracted.”

Since April, diplomats from the remaining parties to the JCPOA and the U.S. have held six rounds of talks in a bid to revive the deal. They made significant progress but failed to get Iran and the U.S. back to full compliance with the nuclear deal.

The sixth round was concluded more than two weeks ago. Deputy Foreign Minister Araqchi, who leads the Iranian negotiating team in Vienna, issued a statement about the conclusion of the sixth round.

Araqchi, while referring to the progress made in the round of negotiations, especially regarding the draft of negotiation texts, said that the remaining important issues require serious decisions in the capitals, especially in the negotiating countries. He called on the negotiating parties to make the necessary decisions with realism, seriousness and strong will to maintain and revive the JCPOA.

While stating that the sides are closer to an agreement than ever before, the deputy foreign minister expressed hope that an agreement could be reached in the next round of talks, although it could not be guaranteed.

The heads of the other delegations, while confirming the progress made, stressed the need for the participation of all parties with a constructive approach in creating the ground for reaching an agreement.

Araqchi has recently said that the U.S. needs to make difficult decisions regarding the JCPOA. 

“So far, six rounds of talks have been held with the P4+1, and we are almost close to the final stages. There is a series of issues that have been sufficiently negotiated and it is time for the countries to decide,” Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said. 

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has already made tough decisions. When the United States withdrew from the JCPOA and Iran decided to stay in the JCPOA. It was Iran's big and difficult decision that led to the preservation of the JCPOA so far. Now it is the turn of the opposing parties, and according to the negotiations we had, they must decide and reach a conclusion on the revival of the JCPOA in order to reach an agreement,” Araghchi told Iranian media after briefing lawmakers sitting on the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee on the Vienna talks last week.

The Vienna talks were expected to resume this week but were delayed after Iran and the U.S. accused each other of not showing the flexibility needed to resume the talks. Iran demanded that the U.S. remove all the sanctions imposed, re-imposed, or relabeled by the Trump administration as these sanctions were primarily part of a broader design to make it hard, if not impossible, for the next U.S. administration to rejoin the JCPOA.

For its part, the Biden administration has demanded a commitment to engage in follow-on talks to bolster and expand on the existing JCPOA, but Iran has virtually ruled that out, saying they are only interested in renewing the 2015 accord, according to an NBC News report.

Meanwhile, the U.S. diplomats put the onus on Iran by saying that Iran needed to make tough decisions to revive the deal. 

“There will come a point, yes, where it will be very hard to return back to the standards set by the JCPOA,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a briefing in Paris after meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian. He also called on Iran to make “difficult” decisions to advance talks that could revive the JCPOA.

Le Drian reiterated the same call. “It’s been six weeks since the negotiations started again. Some progress was achieved, and we will now be entering the most difficult times. It will require some strong and courageous decisions on behalf of the new Iranian authorities, but now is the time,” he said.

Earlier, U.S. envoy to the Vienna talks Rob Malley made it clear that Washington will not lift all the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration against Iran. He even threatened to walk out of talks if Iran continued to insist on getting the U.S. to lift all the sanctions. “What they've asked for - in principle, they've said they want all of the sanctions that President Trump's administration reimposed or imposed since 2018 to be lifted. And that's a lot. And we've said we're prepared to remove those that we think we need to remove to be back in compliance with the JCPOA. But we're not going to lift all of the sanctions that the Trump administration imposed,” Malley told NPR. 

“We wouldn't be going back to Vienna if we thought that it's not possible to reach a deal. I don't think that this window is going to be open forever. At some point, we'll have to conclude that this is not succeeding. But we're not there yet,” he noted.

The U.S. and its European allies also implied that they will wait for the new Iranian government to take over before resuming the next round of the Vienna talks, something that drew a response from Iran. 

Commenting on this issue, Khatibzadeh said Iran’s position on nuclear talks does not change with governments and thus is steadfast. He made it clear that the next government of Iran, expected to put together by President-elect Ayatollah Seyed Ebrahim Raisi by August, will abide by any agreement reached during the current government.

“Iran's position on the JCPOA and the lifting of sanctions is one of the principled positions of the establishment and will not change with the change of government. Therefore, if an agreement is reached, the government of his excellency Mr. Raisi will also be loyal to it, because contrary to the approach of some other parties, adherence to commitments and promises is always a principle for the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Khatibzadeh asserted.

Iranian Government spokesman Ali Rabiei reiterated the same position. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Rabiei said, “Decisions on JCPOA revival negotiations are made at the highest levels, under the supervision and guidance of the Leader and in the Supreme National Security Council.”

He said that under whose government the final negotiations will take place depends on meeting Iran’s interests and the political will of the American side. “At the moment, there is no change in the negotiating team, and I can say that the negotiation process is over, especially on difficult and technical issues,” Rabiei noted. 

He added, “Unlike the U.S. government, the Islamic Republic of Iran sees the government as a unified and sustained legal entity that adheres to all international obligations accepted by previous governments. If an agreement is reached in the twelfth government (the Rouhani government), the thirteenth government (the Raisi government) will no doubt abide by all its obligations under this rule of law.”

The government spokesman further said, “Experience has shown that the Islamic Republic of Iran has not violated its international agreements and commitments in the past, nor will it intend to do so in the future. We hope that the other parties, with the same frankness and transparency, will state the inseparability of their international obligations in spite of the change of governments and adhere to their legal obligations.”

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