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France says concluding Iran nuclear negotiations this week is ‘critical’

Paris points to ‘urgency’ in concluding talks, as all sides signal progress; Iran’s chief negotiator is back in Vienna after returning home for consultations

A general view of Palais Coburg, the site of a meeting where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place in Vienna, Austria, on February 8, 2022. (Lisa Leutner/AP)
A general view of Palais Coburg, the site of a meeting where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place in Vienna, Austria, on February 8, 2022. (Lisa Leutner/AP)

France said on Monday it was “critical” that negotiators trying to restore a 2015 deal over Iran’s nuclear program reach an agreement this week.

All sides have signaled progress in the talks being held in Vienna, but Iran has said that the West still needs to decide on some key issues.

“There is a critical urgency to conclude the negotiations this week,” a foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

Parties to the 2015 deal saw it as the best way to stop the Islamic Republic from building a nuclear bomb – a goal Tehran has always denied.

Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri has returned to Vienna after going home last Wednesday for consultations, during which talks continued at the level of experts in Vienna.

The negotiations to revive the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, involve Iran as well as France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China directly, and the United States indirectly.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri arrives at the Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meeting, in Vienna on November 29, 2021. (Vladimir Simicek/AFP)

The 2015 agreement gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, but the US unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump who reimposed heavy economic sanctions.

That prompted Iran to begin rolling back on its own commitments.

During the Vienna talks, Iran has repeatedly called for guarantees from the US administration of President Joe Biden that there will be no repeat of Trump’s pullout.

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