'Constructive' Iran Nuclear Talks Adjourn In Vienna, With Meetings To Resume Next Week
By RFE/RL April 09, 2021
Diplomats and negotiators have wrapped up four days of talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the hobbled 2015 agreement to limit Iran's nuclear activities, saying this week's meetings were "constructive" and provided "positive momentum."
A return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) has been a priority for U.S. President Joe Biden since taking office in January following his predecessor's withdrawal from the JCPOA three years ago.
The EU-hosted talks involved teams from Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. U.S. and Iranian diplomatics reportedly declined to hold face-to-face meetings so the other other parties conducted shuttle diplomacy.
An EU statement after the last session on April 9 said the so-called Joint Commission on the JCPOA had been "briefed on the work of the two expert groups on sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures and participants noted the constructive and results-oriented exchanges."
It said "the participants emphasized their resolve to further pursue the ongoing joint diplomatic effort" and that a coordinator under EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell "will continue his separate contacts with all JCPOA participants and the United States."
Expert groups, it said, will resume meetings "in the course of next week."
The U.S. and Iranian sides have publicly clashed over the order of possible U.S. concessions on sanctions reimposed under then-President Donald Trump and moves to reverse Iranian deviation from noncompliance with the JCPOA before a new deal can be achieved.
Russia's ambassador to the UN in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said the other sides "took stock of the work done by experts over the last three days and noted with satisfaction the initial progress made."
He later tweeted that representatives "will reconvene next week in order to maintain the positive momentum."
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- who has ultimate political and religious authority in Iran -- has demanded that Washington withdraw its crippling sanctions on Iran before any new agreement.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said this week that "all parties have come to the conclusion that there is no better alternative."
Biden has said Trump's abandonment of the deal in 2018 has left Tehran closer to possessing nuclear weapons -- a goal that Tehran says it rejects. Biden floated hopes for a return to the agreement along with pledges to do all he could to ensure that Iran does not have a nuclear-bomb capability.
Iran has released a South Korean oil tanker it seized three months ago amid a dispute over billions of dollars in funds frozen due to U.S. sanctions.
During this week's talks, suspicion fell on JCPOA opponent Israel after an Iranian ship used by its powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had been struck with an attached mine in the Red Sea.
And overnight on April 8-9, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said the Hankuk Chemi and its captain had been released and the vessel had left an Iranian port near Bandar Abbas.
The ship had spent months in Iranian custody in an incident seen by many as part of tit-for-tat shows of force in the region with ties to billions of dollars in frozen assets in South Korea linked to Iran.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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