Iran signals it could return to nuclear talks next month

Foreign Ministry says talks in Vienna with world powers could begin again in the second week of November

President Ebrahim Raisi attends a live televised interview with state-run TV, at the presidency office in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 4, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
President Ebrahim Raisi attends a live televised interview with state-run TV, at the presidency office in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 4, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Iran foresees talks with world powers aimed at reviving its nuclear deal resuming by early November, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Monday.

“I don’t think it will take us the same amount of time as it took the Biden administration to come,” Khatibzadeh said, referring to US diplomats under President Joe Biden indirectly joining the Vienna talks.

“The government of [President] Ebrahim Raisi has been in power for less than 55 days… I don’t think that the [return to talks] will take as much as 90 days,” he added, indicating that Iran believes talks will be underway again by the second week of November.

It is the first time Iran has suggested a date for a possible return to the table.

The 2015 nuclear deal gave Iran sanctions relief in return for tight controls on its nuclear program, monitored by the UN. Then-US president Donald Trump withdrew from the multilateral deal and began reimposing sanctions in 2018. Tehran has gradually rolled back its nuclear commitments since 2019.

Both Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu have vocally opposed US attempts to return to the deal, claiming that it would embolden Iran and its malign activities.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 27, 2021, at UN headquarters in New York. (John Minchillo/Pool/AFP)

In his speech to the UN General Assembly last week, Bennett warned against trusting Tehran. “Iran’s nuclear weapon program is at a critical point. All red lines have been crossed. Inspections — ignored. All wishful thinking — proven false,” he said. “Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment. And so has our tolerance. Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning.”

Talks in Vienna to revive the deal have been stalled since June, when ultraconservative Raisi was elected as Iran’s president. He took office in August.

Biden — who took office in January — has signaled a willingness to return to the deal and talks to that end began in April in Vienna, before they stalled.

The talks involve Iran and the remaining parties to the deal — China, Russia, France, the UK and Germany — but the US has not participated directly.

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