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Russia rejects US pessimism on Vienna talks, says revival chances ‘seem to be real’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russia’s lead negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov (C-L) and Russian diplomats at the Vienna talks meet US negotiators, including the envoy for Iran Robert Malley, on April 19, 2021. (Photo tweeted by Ulyanov)

Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna says chances to restore the Iran nuclear deal seem to be real, a day after Washington voiced doubt about the future of the agreement, which was ditched by the US and as the remaining signatories seek to revive it.

“Chances to restore #JCPOA seem to be real, although not fully guaranteed, of course,” Mikhail Ulyanov wrote in a tweet on Friday, referring to the nuclear pact by its official acronym.

He made the remarks in response to comments made by Robert Malley, the US envoy for Iran, who called the nuclear deal’s fate “one big question.”

In an interview with NatSec Daily published on Thursday, Malley said the delay in the Vienna talks, which have proceeded fruitlessly since April, is due to the mistrust sowed during the Donald Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign and the political transition in Iran.

Iran and the five remaining parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) launched the Vienna talks months after Joe Biden, who had promised to bring the US back into the deal, occupied the Oval Office.

Tehran has refused to speak directly with Washington throughout the course of the talks, citing the latter’s withdrawal from the deal under Biden’s predecessor, Trump, as the reason that the US cannot attend the talks as it is no longer a party to the deal.

During his interview, Malley also warned that his team is preparing some contingencies if Tehran and Washington fail to agree on resuming compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal.

“It’s too early to be pessimistic, dear Rob,” Ulyanov told the top US diplomat in his tweet, adding that the Vienna Talks will resume soon.

Ulyanov, who leads the Russian team to the Vienna talks, called on the participants to address the remaining obstacles with due creativity.

‘Iran to pursue new negotiation model’

Meanwhile, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee says President Ebrahim Raeisi has agreed to resume the Vienna talks, “but the model of the talks will change in the new administration.”

“The talks [on the JCPOA revival] continued during the [Hassan] Rouhani administration with no results, but we will certainly not see that during the new administration,” Zohreh Elahian said during an interview with Mehr news agency published on Thursday.

Raeisi will make sure that the Vienna talks would not become “attritional,” she added.

So far, six rounds of “constructive” and “businesslike” negotiations have been held in the Austrian capital, but the participating diplomats who were previously optimistic about the revival of the JCPOA sound more cautious in the last few weeks.

Since the beginning of the talks, disagreements have persisted over a number of issues, including how to sequence the US sanctions removal, with Tehran arguing that since Washington was the party that violated the terms of the agreement, it should take the first step back into compliance with the deal by removing its unilateral sanctions.

The Biden administration, on the other hand, has declined to remove the sanctions, despite repeatedly attacking the Trump administration’s “failed” maximum pressure policy and vowing to repeal it.

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