As talks set to restart, Iran says it is ‘firmly determined’ to salvage nuclear deal

Foreign Ministry spokesman suggests US can come to the table too, if Washington lifts its sanctions on the Islamic Republic

The Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) revival talks, in Vienna on November 29, 2021. (VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP)
The Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) revival talks, in Vienna on November 29, 2021. (VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP)

TEHRAN — Iran is “firmly determined” to reach an agreement with major powers on salvaging its 2015 nuclear agreement at talks that resume Monday in Vienna, its foreign ministry spokesman said.

“The delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran is in Vienna with a firm determination to reach an agreement and is looking forward to fruitful talks,” Said Khatibzadeh told reporters.

“The government has shown its willingness and seriousness by sending a quality team known to all. If the other side shows the same willingness, we will be on the right track to reach an agreement.”

According to local media, the Iranian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri has been greatly expanded for the new round of negotiations.

“If the United States comes to Vienna with the determination to break the deadlock and overcome the problems on which we did not agree in previous rounds, the path of dialogue will certainly be easier,” said the spokesman.

The talks, suspended since June, are to resume between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, with the aim of repairing the Iran nuclear deal reached in 2015.

The United States, under then-president Donald Trump, unilaterally left the pact, in 2018.

The remaining signatories to the nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will convene at the Palais Coburg, the luxury hotel where the agreement was signed six years ago.

US President Joe Biden has signaled that he wants to rejoin the deal. A US delegation headed by the administration’s special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, is participating indirectly in the talks, with diplomats from the other countries acting as go-betweens.

Robert Malley, US Special Envoy for Iran, is shown in Vienna, Austria, June 20, 2021. (Florian Schroetter/AP)

Khatibzadeh suggested Monday that the US could “receive a ticket for returning to the room” of the nuclear talks if it agrees to “the real lifting of sanctions.” He also criticized an opinion piece written by the foreign ministers of Britain and Israel that pledged to “work night and day to prevent the Iranian regime from ever becoming a nuclear power.”

In an interview with NPR broadcast Friday, US negotiator Malley said signs from Iran “are not particularly encouraging.”

Iran has made maximalist demands, including calls for the US to unfreeze $10 billion in assets as an initial goodwill gesture, a tough line that might be an opening gambit.

Israeli officials have been increasingly sounding alarm bells over Iran’s nuclear program and the negotiations in recent weeks, with Jerusalem believing the 2015 deal is far too weak and ultimately paves the way to an Iranian nuclear weapon. Officials are reportedly pressing parties to the discussions to condition them on Tehran’s cessation of uranium enrichment.

The JCPOA saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Since the deal’s collapse, Iran now enriches small amounts of uranium up to 60% purity — a short step from weapons-grade levels of 90%. Iran also spins advanced centrifuges barred by the accord and its uranium stockpile now far exceeds the accord’s limits.

Iran maintains its atomic program is peaceful. However, US intelligence agencies and international inspectors say Iran had an organized nuclear weapons program up until 2003. Nonproliferation experts fear the brinkmanship could push Tehran toward even more-extreme measures to try and force the West to lift sanctions.

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