Russia hails 'successful resumption' of Vienna talks, says working groups on the job

Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov arrives at the Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)’s commission meeting, in the Austrian capital, on November 29, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Russia’s lead negotiator has described as “quite successful” the resumption of negotiations in Vienna to put the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement back on track through the removal of US sanctions against Iran.

“The resumption of the #ViennaTalks is quite successful,” Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov wrote in a tweet on Tuesday.

Ulyanov also said that at the beginning of the seventh round of the Vienna talks, the participants decided to immediately continue the drafting process in two working groups.

The two working groups were formed months earlier under the Vienna format to separately deal with the removal of US sanctions against Iran and Tehran’s resumption of all of its nuclear obligations under the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Envoys from Iran and the P4+1 group of countries — Britain, France, Russia, and China plus Germany — began the seventh round of the talks in the Austrian capital on Monday.

The negotiations resumed after a five-month pause over Iran’s presidential election and the formation of a new administration in the country.

Former US president Donald Trump left the JCPOA in May 2018 and re-imposed 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 decided to let go of some of the restrictions imposed on its nuclear energy program, resorting to its legal rights under the JCPOA, which grants a party the right to suspend its contractual commitments in case of a non-performance by the other side.

The US administration of President Joe Biden had said it is willing to compensate for Trump’s mistake and rejoin the deal, but it has retained the sanctions as leverage.

Iran says it won’t settle for anything less than the removal of all US sanctions in a verifiable manner. It also wants guarantees that the US would not abandon the agreement again.

Ulyanov dismisses ‘plan B’ option

Latest reports say the US is exploring a “plan B” with its allies for dealing with Iran if the Vienna talks fail.

Commenting on the reports after Monday’s negotiations in Vienna, Ulyanov said Moscow has a “negative” attitude towards such US positions.

“As far as I understand, the United States is still committed to a negotiated diplomatic solution, but given the very serious development of the Iranian nuclear program, which continues day after day, they have doubts about the achievability of a successful negotiated solution,” he told reporters.

As a fallback, he went on, they say that they are developing a “plan B,” which, one can assume, will be associated with the introduction of additional pressure on Iran in excess of what is available today.

“As for our attitude to such warnings, which are more reminiscent of overt threats, it is, of course, negative. Such statements do not contribute to the formation of a healthy atmosphere in the negotiations, which we say to the Americans with all frankness,” said the Russian diplomat.

He further stressed that there is no reasonable alternative to the process of restoring the JCPOA.

“Thus, the process can be considered launched. It is clear that it will not be easy. The contradictions, primarily between Iran and the Western participants, are quite large on many points,” Ulyanov said.

He added, “But today’s discussion, as well as our separate conversation with US special representative Robert Malley showed that all, without exception, are determined to achieve a positive result. This is the most important prerequisite for the successful continuation and completion of the negotiations.”

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