Iran, Russia, China teams meet ahead of Vienna talks Monday

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)

Iran's negotiating team, led by Ali Baqeri-Kani, has held bilateral and trilateral meetings in Vienna, ahead of a resumption in talks to revive a 2015 nuclear agreement that would remove all sanctions imposed by the US on Tehran.

"The Iranian team arrived on Saturday in Vienna and started meetings which continued on Sunday at an expert level with the heads of the Russian and Chinese negotiating teams, as well as the EU Coordinator Enrique Mora," Iranian diplomat Mohammadreza Ghaebi told ISNA news agency.

The remaining signatories to the deal are set to resume talks after a five-month hiatus. Iran says it won’t settle for anything less than the US sanctions removed all at once in a verifiable manner.

Iran also wants strict guarantees that the US would not abandon the agreement again. The US imposed many rounds of sanctions on Iran after pulling out of the accord in 2018.

Former US president Donald Trump left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018 and reimposed the anti-Iran sanctions that the deal had lifted. He also placed additional sanctions on Iran under other pretexts not related to the nuclear case as part of his “maximum pressure” campaign.

Following a year of strategic patience, Iran resorted to its legal rights under the JCPOA, which grants a party the right to suspend its contractual commitments in case of non-compliance by other signatories, and let go of some of the restrictions imposed on its nuclear energy program.

US mounts threats

In an interview ahead of his visit, Baqeri-Kani, who serves as Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs, stressed that any progress on a US return to the JCPOA must be preceded by the scrapping of all American sanctions and a guarantee that a future administration in Washington will not renege on the agreement once again.

“The removal of all the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)-related sanctions such as the sanctions imposed within the framework of ‘maximum pressure’ campaign is the necessary condition for the success of the negotiations,” he told The Independent.

However, the US special envoy for Iran threatened to further increase pressure on Tehran if it continues its peaceful nuclear program.

“If that’s Iran’s approach, which is to try to use the negotiations as cover for an accelerated nuclear program, and as I say, drag its feet at the nuclear table, we will have to respond in a way that is not our preference,” Robert Malley told BBC Sounds. “Nobody should be surprised if at that point there is increased pressure on Iran.”

Similarly on Thursday, a US statement to the Board of Governors threatened to confront Iran at the IAEA.

“If Iran’s non-cooperation is not immediately remedied ... the Board will have no choice but to reconvene in extraordinary session before the end of this year in order to address the crisis,” the statement read.

Russia: US forgot pressure won’t work with Iran

Russia’s Ambassador to the IAEA Mikhail Ulyanov criticized Washington over the statement.

“I believe that demonstrates that our American counterparts lose patience but I believe all of us need to control our emotions,” he added.

“The US did not negotiate with the Iranians for a very long time and forgot that Iranians don’t do anything under pressure. If they are under pressure, they resist.”

China blasts double standards

China also slammed the United States and Britain for applying double standards with regard to Iran’s nuclear energy program.

Speaking at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s Board of Governors meeting in Vienna, Wang Qun, the Chinese envoy to the UN and other international organizations in Vienna, raised concerns about the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) agreement for cooperation on Australian acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines.

“Why do the US and UK say Iran can’t enrich uranium above 3.7%, while on the other hand they plan to transfer tons of highly enriched 90% material to AUKUS?” he said. “This is an example of a double standard.”

Wang added that the inclusion of Beijing’s concerns at the IAEA meeting should be the start of a new international process to scrutinize the AUKUS deal, which he described as a “small Anglo-Saxon clique” that could prompt more countries to go nuclear.

In a note circulated earlier among diplomats in Vienna and seen by Bloomberg, Wang warned that the AUKUS agreement “constitutes serious risks of nuclear proliferation.”

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