Tehran, Iran – The eighth and possibly final round of talks in Vienna to restore Iran’s landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers has commenced on a cautiously hopeful note.
A Joint Commission meeting of the remaining participants of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal is formally known, concluded on Monday night in the Austrian capital, with a slew of bilateral and trilateral meetings between the different delegations.
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There was, however, no direct meeting between Iranian and United States’ representatives as Tehran refuses to talk directly with Washington after the US in 2018 unilaterally abandoned the accord.
Following the main meeting at the Palais Coburg, Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani said the delegations agreed that “good progress” was made during the seventh round that ended 10 days earlier, and there is now a “suitable framework” to take the talks forward.
“The important thing in this Joint Commission meeting was that different sides emphasised on the importance of prioritising the lifting of sanctions, and also verification and guarantees during the eighth round,” he said.
Bagheri said the negotiations will continue on Tuesday. The Iranian delegation has previously said it is ready to remain in Vienna until a deal acceptable to Tehran is reached.
Due to the US exit from the JCPOA under former President Donald Trump, Iran is now demanding the full lifting of the sanctions, guarantees the US will not leave again, and a period to verify sanctions are effectively lifted.
The JCPOA provided sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme. But after the US withdrawal and imposition of sanctions, Iran abandoned those curbs and is now using advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium up to 60 percent.
Enrique Mora, the European Union’s coordinator in the meeting, told reporters outside the venue that time is limited due to Iran’s nuclear advances, but all delegations wish to end the talks successfully.
“We have come a long, long way since the beginning of the negotiation. We have incorporated sensitivities of a new Iranian government. So from the point of view of the coordinator, we are exactly at the point where we should be if we want to get the final successful result,” he said, referring to the government of conservative President Ebrahim Raisi that came to power in August.
“If we work hard in the days and weeks ahead, we should have a positive result. It is going to be very difficult. Difficult political decisions have to be taken both in Tehran and in Washington.”
Russia’s chief negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov described the meeting as “businesslike and result-oriented” with the aim of achieving an agreement as soon as possible, and described the eighth round as “presumably final round” of the negotiations.
Earlier on Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said the eighth round will move forward revolving around a new and “acceptable” joint document.