Three European countries directly involved in the Iran nuclear talks are calling for “urgency” in bringing every party to the table as the nuclear deal appears to be faltering.
On December 27, the eighth round of negotiations aimed at reviving the nuclear agreement, which was torn asunder after the United States withdrew from the accord in 2018 and reimposed strict sanctions on Iran under former President Donald Trump, opened in Vienna.
Under the 2015 agreement which was signed and sealed by former President Barack Obama, Iran agreed to limit its development of nuclear technology in exchange for sanctions relief. Iran, which continues to maintain that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only, reacted to the U.S. withdrawal by gradually increasing its activities and enriching uranium well beyond the thresholds it agreed to in the 2015 agreement.
The United States under Trump argued that Iran was already ramping up its activities and in breach of the agreement well before the U.S. pulled out.
Diplomats from Britain, France, and Germany expressed the so-called urgency of the current round of negotiations, stating, “This negotiation is urgent…. We are clear that we are nearing the point where Iran’s escalation of its nuclear program will have completely hollowed out the JCPOA,” said the representatives from the trio of countries, who referred to the deal by its acronym.
“That means we have weeks, not months, to conclude a deal before the JCPOA’s core nonproliferation benefits are lost,” they added, Radio Free Europe reported.
In addition to negotiators from the three European nations, diplomats from China and Russia, which have remained party to the agreement, are also involved in efforts to restart the accord.
The previous round of talks, which was the first to be conducted under the new hardline Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, concluded on December 17 after Iran added new demands to a working text, including the lifting of all U.S. sanctions.
Iran is currently considered to be the world’s largest state sponsor of international terrorism by the U.S. State Department.
The government in Tehran said it wanted “guarantees” that Washington, which is only participating in the talks indirectly, will return to the accord.
“The most important issue for us is to reach a point where, firstly, Iranian oil can be sold easily and without hindrance,” said Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian according to Iranian state media.
Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov said on December 28 that the working group is making “indisputable progress,” adding that “sanctions lifting is being actively discussed in informal settings.”
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. thinks it’s too soon to say how substantive the progress is and told reporters that the U.S. has not seen sufficient urgency demonstrated by Iran.
Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he would not be opposed to a “good” nuclear deal between Iran, but he isn’t holding his breath.