Iran and the US are close to the text of the nuclear deal, but hurdles remain
Negotiations between Iran and the United States to revive the 2015 nuclear deal are close to completion, the European Union’s top negotiator said at talks on Sunday night, but it remained unclear whether Tehran would accept the final deal.
The text of an agreement could be finalized in the next few hours, said Enrique Mora of the EU, the coordinator of the talks. But Iran has yet to decide whether to drop its demand that the nuclear deal can only be revived if it closes a years-long United Nations investigation into its nuclear program.
“We were negotiating some technical questions that were open in the text,” Mr Mora told reporters in Vienna. “We are moving forward and I expect we will close this deal soon.”
The final text will have to be approved by Iran, the US and the other participants in the talks, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. Senior French, British and German negotiators are not currently in Vienna.
The 16-month-long Vienna talks aim to agree on steps Washington and Tehran must take to return to compliance with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal.
The 2015 deal placed strict but temporary limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions on Tehran. The Trump administration pulled the US out of the deal in May 2018, arguing that it would not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran began violating the deal’s nuclear limits a year later and has since ramped up its nuclear activities.
Negotiations came close to an agreement in March, but then stalled for months. But talks resumed on Thursday after Iran softened one of its remaining demands: the lifting of terror sanctions on the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps.
But Iran took part in last week’s talks insisting that a three-year investigation by the UN Atomic Energy Agency into undeclared nuclear material found in the country must be closed if the nuclear deal is revived. Several Western diplomats said Sunday that Tehran has doubled down on that condition in recent days of talks and there is no agreement on the issue.
Research into artificial nuclear material found in Iran is highly sensitive for Tehran, which has always maintained it has never sought nuclear weapons. Iran obstructed the investigation and provided answers the agency said were unreliable.
But Western officials said Iran must cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and insisted they would not intervene to shut down the probe or set a deadline for the agency’s work.
A Western diplomat said there would be no mention of Iran’s demands to shut down nuclear research in the text of the deal being drafted.
On Monday, there will be no formal negotiations due to the Iranian holy day of Ashura. However, the aim is to have the final text ready for a final decision in the coming days. It is unclear whether Iran’s chief negotiator, Ali Bagheri-Khani, will first return to Tehran for consultations with the Iranian leadership.
Russia’s chief negotiator in the talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, told reporters on Sunday, “we are talking about days, not weeks” to get a deal done.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also said on Sunday that the success of the nuclear talks depended on Washington’s flexibility in the talks.
“We are serious about reaching a solid and stable agreement,” he said during a conversation with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Iran’s foreign ministry said. “Of course, the outcome depends on whether the US wants a deal and whether it shows the necessary flexibility and realism in practice.”
— Aresu Eqbali contributed to this article.
Write to Laurence Norman at email@example.com
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