Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy nations and members of NATO on Monday reaffirmed a commitment to stop Iran from making nuclear weapons, as diplomats from outside the European Union cautioned that negotiations with the Islamic Republic to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal still need more time.
Iranian envoys held another round of negotiations with international delegations in Vienna a day after EU coordinators suggested that differences over the accord limiting Iran’s nuclear activities had narrowed further. But Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told Iranian state media he thought a deal was unlikely to emerge in the coming week. A diplomat from Russia also said more time was needed to work out details.
The Vienna meetings are aimed at rebuilding the nuclear containment agreement between Iran and major world powers that the Trump administration withdrew the United States from in 2018.
US President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders expressed support for the Vienna process after a three-day summit in southwest England that ended Sunday. The G7 nations are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the US.
“We are committed to ensuring that Iran will never develop a nuclear weapon,” the leaders said in a joint statement.
“A restored and fully-implemented [nuclear deal] could also pave the way to further address regional and security concerns,” the statement said.
A statement echoing the same sentiment and using the same wording was issued Monday by the 30-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) following a summit in Brussels, Belgium.
NATO members also welcomed the discussions with world powers, urged Tehran to avoid “any further escalation,” and backed the UN’s atomic watchdog, which has been documenting Iranian violations of the nuclear deal.
The NATO statement also slammed the Islamic Republic for supporting proxy terror groups and over its ballistic missile program.
“We condemn Iran’s support to proxy forces and non-state armed actors, including through financing, training, and the proliferation of missile technology and weapons,” the statement said. “We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities inconsistent with UNSCR 2231, refrain from destabilising actions, and play a constructive role in fostering regional stability and peace.”
A resolution would see Iran return to commitments made in 2015, aimed at making the development of a nuclear weapon impossible, in exchange for lighter US sanctions.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Iran has been “galloping forward” with its nuclear ambitions and violating the terms of the accord since the United States pulled out of the deal.
“I think [it] puts some urgency in seeing if we can put the nuclear problem back in the box,” Blinken said.
Sunday’s bilateral meetings followed joint negotiations held Saturday involving senior diplomats from China, Germany, France, Russia, and Britain. The United States was not directly involved.
An Iranian pro-opposition group held a small protest outside the famed Vienna Opera House, near the downtown hotel where the talks are taking place. Organizers said local police in Austria’s capital instructed them not to protest outside the hotel. The event ended peacefully.