Russia says cautiously optimistic over ‘real progress’ in Vienna talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gives an annual press conference on Russian diplomacy in 2021, in Moscow on January 14, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says he is cautiously optimistic about “progress” made in ongoing negotiations in the Austrian capital of Vienna between Iran and the five remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at securing the removal of all US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Speaking in an annual press conference on Friday, Lavrov said he was optimistic about the direction of talks over the revival of the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was abandoned by the US three years after its conclusion.

"There's real progress. There's real desire – primarily between Iran and the United States – to understand specific concerns and how these concerns can be considered in the general package" of documents, the top Russian diplomat said. He added that the two sides are making "good progress at the moment" and would "come to an agreement."

Iran and the P4+1 group of countries – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – resumed talks in Vienna on January 3 after the parties took a three-day break for the New Year. The US is not allowed to directly attend the talks due to its pullout in 2018.

The eighth round of the Vienna talks began on December 27 with a focus on the removal of all sanctions that the United States imposed on Iran.

During the previous round of the talks, the first under Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raeisi, Iran presented new proposals at the negotiating table to help the talks move forward and later criticized the European signatories of the JCPOA for failing to follow suit and remaining passive.

One year after Washington’s exit from the deal and the failure of the European signatories to uphold their commitments under pressure from the US, Iran took a set of retaliatory steps away from the deal in several stages in line with its legal contractual rights.

With a new administration in office in the US, Washington says it wants to rejoin the deal, but it has been dragging its feet in removing the sanctions on Iran. Tehran has been firmly insisting that the US must first remove the sanctions in a verifiable manner, give guarantees that it will not leave the agreement again, and compensate for all the damages inflicted on Iran due to Washington's unlawful pullout.

Iran chief negotiator meets JCPOA Joint Commission coordinator, E3 envoys

On Friday, Iran's lead negotiator to the Vienna talks Ali Bagheri Kani and Enrique Mora, the European Union’s deputy foreign policy chief and head of the JCPOA Joint Commission, held talks.

On the 16th day of the eighth round of talks between Iran and the P4+1 group of countries, Bagheri Kani also held a meeting with representatives of the three European signatories to the JCPOA.

Speaking in a televised interview whose text was published on Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said it is possible for the negotiating parties in Vienna to reach a good agreement in the shortest possible time if there is serious will on all sides.

Iran’s top diplomat said, “If there is serious will, we will be able to reach a good agreement in the shortest time, and as of today, we believe that negotiations are positive and moving forward.”

Iran, P4+1 likely to reach deal: Borrell

In another development, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday it is still "possible" for Iran and the P4+1 group of countries to reach an agreement as talks in Vienna advance in a "better atmosphere".

"We're arriving at the end of a long process... there's a better atmosphere since Christmas -- before Christmas I was very pessimistic. Today I believe reaching an accord is possible," he said after an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers.

He added that the sides can conclude a final deal "in the coming weeks."

"I still maintain the hope that it would be possible to remake this agreement and have it function as it did before the American withdrawal," the top EU official pointed out.

However, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed a different view and said the talks in Vienna are progressing "much too slowly to be able to reach a result."

Iran, E3 negotiators return to capitals for consultations

Senior negotiators of Iran and the three European parties to the JCPOA agreed to temporarily adjourn the talks for two days and return to the capitals for some consultations. However, expert-level talks would continue.

JCPOA opponents become more active, provocative: Lead Russian negotiator

Meanwhile, the Russian chief negotiator and ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said in a post on his Twitter account that the opponents to the JCPOA have become "more active and provocative" in the public space as the Vienna talks move ahead.

"The absolute majority of states, incl. P5, aim at restoration of the nuclear deal and sanctions lifting," Ulyanov tweeted.


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