Tehran, Iran – Another round of talks in Vienna to restore Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers has concluded on a hopeful note as different sides said progress is being made.
The Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) convened on Saturday in the Austrian capital with top negotiators from Iran, China, Russia, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.
Representatives from the United States, which left the accord in 2018 and unilaterally imposed sanctions on Iran, were again in a different hotel with Europeans shuttling back and forth between them and other representatives.
After the talks, Iran’s top negotiator said a “new understanding” appears to be forming between all sides as the results of the job done by two working groups – one to determine what sanctions the US needs to lift, and one to determine what nuclear measures Iran needs to take – were reviewed.
“There is now a shared view of the end goal between all sides and the path that needs to be taken is a bit better known,” said Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and a veteran negotiator.
“Although it won’t be an easy path. There are some serious differences that will need to be resolved,” he added.
Araghchi said the talks have now reached a stage where all sides can work on a joint text. He said Iran has drafted a text, both on sanction-lifting and on nuclear measures, that will act as the basis for a final agreement.
Enrique Mora, the European Union’s deputy foreign policy chief, said in a tweet following the Joint Commission meeting that “progress has been made” in what is a difficult task and more work is needed, but “everyone is committed to the same objective” of the US rejoining the deal.
After intensive talks we have taken stock in the Joint Commission. Progress has been made in a far from easy task. We need now more detailed work. Key that everyone is committed to the same objectives: US rejoining the #JCPOA and its full implementation. pic.twitter.com/84CDnzC4nf
— Enrique Mora (@enriquemora_) April 17, 2021
Russian representative Mikhail Ulyanov also tweeted that progress has been made, and that participants had “expressed determination to continue negotiations with a view to complete the process successfully as soon as possible”.
The meeting of the Joint Commission of #JCPOA is over. The participants took note with satisfaction of the progress made so far and expressed determination to continue negotiations with a view to complete the process successfully as soon as possible.
— Mikhail Ulyanov (@Amb_Ulyanov) April 17, 2021
According to Ulyanov, the expert working groups will continue their work through next week, after which the Joint Commission may reconvene if necessary.
The latest round of talks, which began on Thursday, continued even as Araghchi announced on Wednesday that Iran will soon commence enriching uranium to a purity of 60 percent.
The announcement came days after Iran’s main nuclear facilities at Natanz were targeted in an attack – which Tehran alleges was orchestrated by Israel – that led to a large blackout and damaged an unknown number of centrifuges.
Iran had previously boosted its uranium enrichment to 20 percent following the assassination of a top nuclear and military scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in November. The JCPOA caps the country’s enrichment at 3.67 percent. Enrichment of 90 percent is required for weapons-grade use.
Iran’s state television on Saturday aired footage from inside the Natanz complex, where centrifuges were shown to be enriching uranium.
Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said the country began production of 60 percent enriched uranium on Friday. Iran has said it wants to use it to produce molybdenum to ultimately manufacture radiopharmaceuticals.
Iranian state television also reported that a 43-year-old man named Reza Karimi was responsible for the Natanz attack but has since left the country. The report also aired what appeared to be an Interpol red notice seeking his arrest.