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JCPOA revival talks to be held in a Persian Gulf country, Iran confirms

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh

Tehran has confirmed that the next round of paused negotiations to revive the ailing 2015 Iran deal will be hosted by a Persian Gulf country, following reports by Qatar’s Al Jazeera network and Iran’s Nour News that the involved parties may head to Doha to continue the talks.

Iran’s outgoing Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a news conference on Monday morning that the sides will decide on the next venue of the talks and the exact date within hours.

“Inshallah (God willing), one of the countries in the Persian Gulf will be the host, and the meeting will take place in the coming days of the current week,” Khatibzadeh told reporters.

The talks were initially launched last April but have already hit two months-long pauses. All previous rounds have been held in Austria’s capital, Vienna.

On the agenda is to restore to full force the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran deal, which the US abandoned in 2018 and has tried to kill since then.

In quitting the JCPOA, former US president Donald Trump introduced what he called the “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions to bring Iran to its knees. Tehran demands the removal of all those sanctions.

In the meantime, Mohammad Marandi, an advisor to the Iranian negotiating team, was quoted by Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on Sunday as saying that Iran had selected Qatar as a “friendly country” to host the talks.

Khatibzadeh also quoted Josep Borrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, as saying that the United States has pledged to abide by its obligations under the JCPOA and the UNSC resolution 2231 and guarantee Iran’s economic interests.

The spokesman, however, stressed that “we have to wait and see” whether Washington would make good on its promises, given that it has once withdrawn from the deal.

Ball in Washington’s court

Elsewhere in his remarks, Khatibzadeh asserted the negotiators will not discuss nuclear issues, but rather, they will focus on pending issues concerning the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Iran.

“The ball is in Washington’s court. If they come up with an answer, an agreement would be reached,” he said.

The spokesman reiterated that Tehran will not hold any direct negotiations with the United States over the revival of the 2015 deal, emphasizing that “the talks would be indirect and would be facilitated by the European Union.”

‘Riyadh ready for diplomatic-level talks with Iran’

Referring to a recent visit paid by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to Tehran, Khatibzadeh praised Baghdad’s role in Iran-Saudi Arabia talks.

He said the Iraqi premier told Iran that Riyadh is ready to proceed with the talks in Baghdad at the diplomatic level.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian protesters, enraged by the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, stormed its embassy in Tehran.

The kingdom then pursued a confrontational foreign policy toward the Islamic Republic, especially during the US administration of Donald Trump, with whom the Saudis had close ties.

However, since last year, the kingdom appears to have changed tack, joining Iran in the Iraqi capital for negotiations to re-establish their diplomatic relations.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Sunday told al-Kadhimi that Tehran backs initiatives aimed at reopening the Iranian and Saudi embassies in the capitals of the two regional heavyweights.

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