Iranian negotiators and five world powers resumed negotiations to reinstate Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal in 2015, with Iran insisting that the United States and its allies pledge to allow it to export its crude oil.
The latest round of talks in Vienna, the eighth, opened 10 days after the adjournment of negotiations for the Iranian negotiator to return home for consultations.
The previous cycle, the first after a gap of more than five months caused by the arrival of a new hard-line government in Iran, was marked by tensions over new Iranian demands.
“If we work hard in the days and weeks to come, we should have a positive result,” said Enrique Mora, the European Union diplomat who chaired the talks, after the opening session.
But “it’s going to be very hard – tough political decisions have to be made.”
Tehran’s historic agreement with the world powers: Great Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Russia and China; gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
But in 2018 then-President Donald Trump withdrew America from the deal and imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, including against its oil sector – the lifeline of its economy.
Iranian crude exports have plummeted and international oil companies have broken deals with Tehran, weakening its economy.
The other signatories fought to maintain the agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The United States is only participating indirectly in this year’s talks to restore the deal, which President Joe Biden has signaled he wants to join.
Speaking in Tehran ahead of the resumption of talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Iran wanted the next round of talks to focus on its sanctions-stricken oil industry.
The goal is to get to “the point where Iranian oil is sold easily and without any barriers and its money gets into Iran’s bank accounts,” he said.
Amirabdollahian said Iran wanted “to be able to take advantage of any economic concessions under the nuclear deal.”
“Guarantee and verification (of the removal of sanctions) are among the subjects we have focused on,” he said.
The new administration of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has repeatedly called for the removal of all economic sanctions before Iran curbs its nuclear advances.
Separately, on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said it would be “intolerable” for the West to demand anything from Tehran beyond respecting the agreement. initial.
Iran has steadily abandoned all limits of the deal since the US withdrawal and is now enriching uranium at 60% purity – a short technical step by military grade levels.
He spins ever more advanced centrifuges, which are also prohibited by the agreement.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful. But the country’s significant nuclear measures have alarmed regional enemies like Israel and the world powers.
Diplomats have warned that time is running out to restore the deal, as Iran maintains a hard line in forcing the United States to lift sanctions.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who fiercely opposed the 2015 deal, reiterated his country’s pledge that Iran will never get nuclear weapons.
“Of course, we prefer to act through international cooperation, but if necessary, we will defend ourselves on our own,” he said, threatening veiled unilateral military action against Iran’s nuclear program.
Diplomats from all three European powers have said time is running out for a positive conclusion to the talks.
And Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted after the announcement of the resumption of talks that “we must move towards successful talks as soon as possible, preferably in early February”.
He called Monday’s opening session “professional and results-oriented.”
Mora, the chairman of the talks, said the decision to resume talks between Christmas and New Years was made because “there is a sense of urgency” and it “was not acceptable to lose , let’s say, 10 more days â.
He said he would not “speculate” on target dates for a deal, but reiterated that “we are talking about weeks, not months”.