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Iran, France hold intensive expert-level talks on ways to save nuclear deal

Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi attends a meeting on the 2015 nuclear deal in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on June 28, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Iranian and French experts have held intensive talks aimed at salvaging an international nuclear deal, which has been at risk of unraveling since the US withdrew from it last year.

The ten-hour meeting was chaired by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi, who headed a politico-economic delegation, in the French capital, Paris, on Monday.

According to Iran’s Foreign Ministry, both sides reviewed details of President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative to save the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), following phone calls with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.

Macron’s plan — which he separately discussed in detail with US President Donald Trump and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif — reportedly included a “softening” of economic sanctions against Tehran in exchange for some liabilities.

The initiative, according to an earlier report by Bloomberg, will allow Iran to sell certain amounts of oil in exchange for fully implementing the JCPOA.

Araqchi’s trip to Paris follows several phone conversations between Rouhani and Macron as well as two visits by Zarif to Paris for talks, the second round of which took place on the sidelines of a G7 summit late last month.

Ali Rabiei, spokesman for the Iranian administration, on Monday commented on the diplomatic process between Tehran and Paris, saying, “In the past few weeks, there have been serious negotiations” between Rouhani and Macron as well as talks with other European nations.

“Fortunately, in many areas, our views have come closer together,” he told a presser.

Macron — who has taken the lead in Europe’s efforts to save the JCPOA and sought to mediate between Iran and the US — told Rouhani on Saturday that France would continue its efforts for de-escalation on Iran’s case, saying that would lead to solutions to regional conflicts.

During the conversation, Rouhani reiterated Iran’s position on the nuclear agreement, saying Tehran would continue to scale back its commitments under the deal to force other parties to observe their own obligations.

Rouhani repeated previous statements suggesting that the European parties to the JCPOA, namely France, Britain and Germany, have done little in line with their promises to save the deal from the impacts of the US sanctions.

Iran has already reduced its commitments under the JCPOA on two occasions, demanding that other parties to the deal expedite efforts that could enable Iran to benefit from the economic advantages of the agreement.

Tehran said this planned third reversible step would be outlined in the middle of this week.

After leaving the deal in May 2018, Trump launched a “maximum pressure” campaign to force Tehran into negotiating a new deal that would meet his demands: ending Iran’s missile program and rolling back its regional influence.

Following his talks in France, Araqchi traveled to Slovenia’s capital of Ljubljana, where he is scheduled to hold separate talks with his Slovenian counterpart as well as other senior political and economic officials of the European country.

While in Ljubljana, the Iranian diplomat will also deliver a speech in an international forum. He is expected to hold talks with the participating officials of other countries on the sidelines of the event.

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