US sanctions on oil, banks expected to be lifted: Iran negotiator

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi did not say under which mechanism sanctions would be lifted, as European diplomats say success to revive the 2015 nuclear pact was not ‘guaranteed’ but also ‘not impossible’.

European External Action Service Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora, left, and Iranian Deputy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria [EU Delegation in Vienna/Handout/Reuters]

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator said Tehran expects US sanctions on oil, banks and other sectors and on most individuals and institutions to be lifted based on agreements reached so far at talks in Vienna, Iranian state media reported.

Russia and Western European powers meanwhile gave contrasting accounts of the task ahead in the talks to bring Iran and the United States fully back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, as the talks adjourned for six days.

“Sanctions … on Iran’s energy sector, which include oil and gas, or those on the automotive industry, financial, banking and port sanctions, all should be lifted based on agreements reached so far,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying on Saturday by the Iranian state media.

Araqchi did not say under which mechanism sanctions would be lifted or refer to how Tehran would meet Washington’s demands and return to its commitments under the deal.

“We will negotiate until the two sides’ positions come closer and our demands are met,” he said.

“If they are met there will be an agreement, if not there will naturally be no agreement.”

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi leaves a hotel before the meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission, in Vienna, Austria [File: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters]

Asked to comment, the US State Department referred back to past statements, including remarks on Friday from the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, who said the talks were in “an unclear place”.

“We’ve seen willingness of all sides, including the Iranians, to talk seriously about sanctions relief restrictions and a pathway back into the JCPOA,” Sullivan said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal’s title.

“But it is still uncertain as to whether this will culminate in a deal in Vienna,” he said.

President Joe Biden is exploring a return to the deal after Washington pulled out in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump and reimposed sanctions against Tehran. Iran responded as of 2019 by breaching many of the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities.

The remaining partners to the 2015 accord have been engaged in negotiations since early April to try to revive it.

The talks began in Vienna with Iran, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany – the remaining signatories to the deal – meeting in the basement of a luxury hotel, and the US representatives from another hotel across the street. Iran has refused to hold direct meetings with US officials.

“We have much work, and little time, left. Against that background, we would have hoped for more progress this week,” senior diplomats from the so-called E3 – France, Britain and Germany – said in a statement on Saturday.

Officials have said they hope to reach a deal by May 21, when an agreement between Tehran and the UN nuclear watchdog on continued monitoring of some Iranian nuclear activities is due to expire.

“We have yet to come to an understanding on the most critical points. Success is by no means guaranteed, but not impossible,” they added.

The break in talks was widely expected as diplomats said officials from several countries are also involved in the Group of Seven foreign ministers’ three-day meeting in London that begins on Monday.

Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov noted on Twitter that “indisputable progress” had been achieved, adding that he was cautiously optimistic.

“It’s too early to be excited, but we have reasons for cautious and growing optimism. There is no deadline, but participants aim at successful completion of the talks in approximately three weeks. Is it realistic? We will see,” he tweeted.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies