Russia says Iran nuclear talks advancing, but some issues will take time

Diplomat summarizes 2 weeks of deliberations ‘with satisfaction’ as negotiations enter drafting stage; Israeli officials said concerned US will rush to rejoin

Police officers stay in front of the 'Grand Hotel Wien' in Vienna, Austria, April 9, 2021, where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)
Police officers stay in front of the 'Grand Hotel Wien' in Vienna, Austria, April 9, 2021, where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)

A Russian diplomat taking part in talks to save the landmark Iran nuclear deal said Monday that the negotiations had entered “the drafting stage,” though solutions to some of the issues were “still far away.”

The 2015 agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief has been left hanging by a thread since the US withdrew from the pact in 2018 and reimposed sanctions, prompting Tehran to in turn step up its nuclear activities.

Diplomats from the remaining parties to the deal — Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, and China — have been meeting in Vienna since early this month to find a way to get the pact back on track with US participation under the Biden administration.

“Summing up the results of two weeks of deliberations on JCPOA restoration we can note with satisfaction that the negotiations entered the drafting stage,” Russian Ambassador to Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov wrote on Twitter, using the acronym of the deal’s formal name.

Russia’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mikhail Ulyanov, outside the ‘Grand Hotel Wien’ for the closed-door nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna on April 15, 2021, where diplomats of the EU, China, Russia, and Iran hold their talks. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

“Practical solutions are still far away, but we have moved from general words to agreeing on specific steps towards the goal,” he added.

The EU, Russia, and Iran all hailed progress at the talks Saturday, which came following an attack on the Natanz nuclear facility, which Iran blamed on Israel.

On Friday, Tehran also announced that it was producing uranium enriched to 60 percent purity, taking the country closer to the 90% level required for use in a nuclear weapon and far above the threshold allowed by the deal.

Iran has said it will reverse steps taken so far if the US lifts sanctions imposed under the administration of former president Donald Trump.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told Fox News on Sunday that the US wanted to be sure of Iran’s compliance.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan speaks with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, March 12, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“The United States is not going to lift sanctions unless we have clarity and confidence that Iran will fully return to compliance with its obligations under the deal that it will put a lid on its nuclear program,” he said.

Israeli officials on Sunday night expressed concern that the Biden administration will rush to rejoin the nuclear deal with Iran, arguing that Washington’s negotiating power is compromised by its eagerness to clinch a pact.

“Both sides, the Americans and the Iranians, want a deal. The Iranians smell that the Americans want an agreement at any price,” an official told Channel 12 on condition of anonymity, following a top-level security cabinet meeting on the issue.

“The outcome is known from the start — a return to the Iran deal with amendments,” the official added.

Iran delegation head Abbas Araghchi said Saturday that “a new agreement is taking shape” but warned that it won’t be easy.

“We think that negotiations have reached a stage that the parties can start working on a joint text. The writing of the text can start, at least in the fields with a consensus,” he said.

“There are still serious disagreements that must be reduced during future negotiations,” he added.

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