Iran Chief Nuclear Negotiator Says Vienna Talks Will Not End This week
Abbas Araghchi, Tehran’s chief negotiator in nuclear talks with world powers in Vienna, said Saturday that negotiations are not tied to Iran’s presidential election of next Friday and that he did not expect “a final wrap-up” this week.”
Also on Saturday, Ebrahim Raeesi (Raisi), considered the front-runner in the June 18 election, told the final live, televised presidential debate he was not against reviving the nuclear deal if this was in the interest of Iranians. President Hassan Rouhani, who leaves office in August, has said several times that Iran’s approach is set collectively through the Supreme National Security Council and not determined by whoever is president.
The talks – of remaining signatories to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and indirectly the United States
The sixth round of talks began with a formal meeting of the JCPOA Commission including remaining parties to the deal – China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, and the United Kingdom - in the basement of a luxury hotel. The US delegation is based in a hotel across the street as Iran refuses face-to-face meetings until Washington rejoins the JCPOA.
Araghchi spoke after the Commission meeting, stressing that Iran was “neither in a hurry nor wasting time…[in] pursuing an agreement which would be good and desirable for the Islamic Republic…”
The Russian envoy in the talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, said Saturday that at least two more weeks of negotiations were needed. The talks' chief coordinator, European Union foreign policy chief Enrique Mora, who leads the shuttle diplomacy between Iran and US, has said he expects a deal in this round of talks, while other envoys are more cautious.
"We are making progress, but the negotiations are intense and a number of issues (remain), including on how steps are to be implemented," an EU spokesman said in a statement to reporters, adding that the aim was "to find ways to get very close to a final agreement in the coming days."
Both Rouhani and some diplomats in Vienna have said that most of the crucial issues have been resolved. The Washington Post reported Saturday that the US shares the assessment that remaining gaps “could be closed in a matter of weeks.”
The Post also said that the Biden administration is pushing for Iran to “explicitly agree that the deal would lead to follow-on negotiations.” Such follow-on negotiations, if Iran agrees, could cover regional security and defense issues as well as a possible extension to the JCPOA.
President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the JCPO in 2018 and imposed draconian sanctions that sent the Iranian economy into a recession from which it is only now emerging. Iran responded by breaching many of the limits on its nuclear program, moves it accelerated after November’s killing of scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and April’s attack on its Natanz enrichment facility, both widely attributed to Israel.
"Playing for time is in no-one's interest," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who is not at the talks, told Reuters, urging all sides to show flexibility and pragmatism.
China's IAEA ambassador said US sanctions remained the main sticking point. “Our message to them is that they should stop shilly-shallying by moving decisively to sanction-lifting,” Wang Qun, told reporters.
With reporting by Reuters