Are we getting closer to the goal? The European Union, coordinator of the Vienna talks on Iranian nuclear power, has submitted “a final text”, a European official announced on Monday, hoping for a conclusion “in a few weeks”. “We worked for four days and today the text is on the table of high representatives,” he told the press on condition of anonymity. “The negotiation is over, this is the final text and it will not be renegotiated”.
In the aftermath, Iran said it was reviewing the text submitted by the EU. “As soon as we received these ideas, we shared our initial response and our thoughts but naturally the clauses require a global examination and we will transmit our views and our remarks” to the EU and “to the other parties”, indicated an official of Iranian Foreign Affairs quoted by the Irna agency.
Despite the announcements made by Iran, caution remains in order: since the start of negotiations, the Islamic Republic has been regularly accused of holding double talk and blowing hot and cold with Western chancelleries.
Saving a dying deal
After a stalemate of several months, diplomats from all parties (Iran, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany) returned last Thursday to Vienna in order to save the moribund agreement of 2015. The pact, known under its English acronym JCPOA (“Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action”), aims to guarantee the civilian nature of the nuclear program of Tehran, accused of seeking to acquire atomic weapons despite its denials, in exchange for the reinstatement of the Islamic Republic on the international scene.
But following the unilateral withdrawal of the United States in 2018 under the leadership of Donald Trump and the reinstatement of American sanctions, Tehran has gradually freed itself from its obligations, which worries Westerners. Iran has thus exceeded the uranium enrichment rate of 3.67% set by the JCPOA, crossing the unprecedented threshold of 60%, and has multiplied the number of centrifuges. The objective of the talks, in which the United States participates indirectly, is to put the process back on track.
“Now the ball is in the capitals’ court and we will see what will happen,” added the European official. Insisting on the “quality of the text”, he said “we sincerely hope that it will be accepted”.
Blockage with the IAEA
There remains, however, a sizeable obstacle: Iran is asking the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to close the question of undeclared sites, where traces of enriched uranium had been found. “The agency should completely settle the issue through technical means, and move away from irrelevant and non-constructive political issues,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in a phone interview with the secretary-general. of the UN, Antonio Guterres.
For the European official, the dispute with the IAEA “has nothing to do” with the JCPOA. “At the same time, Iran says it’s fundamental. I hope Iran and the IAEA will have an agreement because it will facilitate a lot of things,” he added.
Moreover, Tehran wants the lifting of sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards, the ideological army of the Islamic Republic, which are on the list of terrorist organizations of the United States. What Washington refuses to do. Finally, Iran is demanding guarantees in case Joe Biden’s successor goes back on his word.