Qatar Will Host Iran-US Talks on Nuclear Deal Amid Surprise Venue Shakeup
The news comes on the heels of the US's announcement last week that Iranians who served in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps would no longer be automatically barred from entering the US under an IRGC "terrorism" blacklisting. Tehran made the lifting of restrictions on the IRGC a key condition for restoring the landmark nuclear deal.
The next round of indirect talks between Iran and the United States will take place in Doha, Qatar instead of the usual venue of Vienna, and will occur sometime within the next few days, the Iranian Students' News Agency reported on Monday.
"It is expected that negotiations over reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will be held in the coming days in Doha by Iran, the US and EU's delegations," ISNA indicated in a report on Iranian Ambassador to Qatar Hamidreza Dehghani's meeting with Qatari Deputy Foreign Minister Abdulaziz al-Khulaifi.
Mohammad Marandi, a media advisor to Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani, confirmed to ISNA that the indirect talks, facilitated by the European Union, would take place in the Qatari capital, and said Iran "has chosen Qatar to host the talks because of Doha's friendly ties with Tehran."
In a press conference earlier Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh confirmed that a new round of talks on the JCPOA would take place this week, and that "one of the countries in the Persian Gulf will host" them. "The ball is in Washington's court. If they come up with an answer, an agreement would be reached," he said.
A source told Reuters that US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley will arrive in Qatar on Monday, and that the talks could take place Tuesday and Wednesday.
The renewed negotiations, and at a venue besides Vienna, where Iran, other JCPOA members, and the United States have spent over a year discussing the restoration of the 2015 nuclear deal, comes amid media reports of behind-the-scenes agreements on a range of issues of concern to Tehran.
Iran has long insisted that the US remove its illegal sanctions against Tehran and the Islamic Republic's elite Revolutionary Guard security forces from its 'Foreign Terrorist Organization' watch list. Progress in this direction appeared to have been made last week, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas issuing a joint notice Thursday announcing the lifting a blanket ban on Iranian nationals who served in the IRGC as part of their military service from entering the US.
On Sunday, Ynet reported that senior Israeli defense officials had broken from Tel Aviv's long-held opposition to the JCPOA, and expressed support for its revival. The outlet's sources indicated that Mossad, which successfully lobbied the Trump administration into scrapping the nuclear deal in 2018, continues to oppose the agreement.
Separately on Sunday, Israel's Channel 12 reported that Tel Aviv had relented on a US-negotiated deal to allow for the delivery of Iranian oil supplies to Syria. If accurate, the report would be a stark break from Israel's previous policy, which has included efforts to sabotage tankers carrying emergency energy supplies to Syria as the US continues its occupation of the oil-rich third of the war-torn country.
Last week, Saeed Khaitibzadeh indicated that Tehran remains committed to JCPOA negotiations, notwithstanding the Biden White House's pursuit of hostile policies similar to those of its predecessor. "In spite of all American violations and the continuation of Trump's approach, this train has not yet derailed," he said. "We are ready for a good, lasting and effectual agreement and consider that all grounds are prepared to achieve it."
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