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Tense talks on Iran’s nuclear program to resume Thursday in Vienna

US Secretary of State Blinken says he is ‘not hopeful’ for a resolution of the negotiations ‘based on what we’ve seen so far’

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani is seen leaving the Coburg Palais, venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meeting aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna, on December 3, 2021. (Joe Klamar/AFP)
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani is seen leaving the Coburg Palais, venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meeting aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna, on December 3, 2021. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

The European diplomat chairing nuclear talks between Iran and world powers says negotiations in Vienna will resume on Thursday.

Enrique Mora said Wednesday on Twitter that the parties to the 2015 Vienna accord will meet in the Austrian capital after consulting with their governments in recent days.

European diplomats had urged Tehran to come back with “realistic proposals” after Iran’s delegation last week made numerous demands that were deemed unacceptable by the other parties to the accord — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

The United States withdrew from the agreement in 2018 under former US president Donald Trump. His successor Joe Biden has indicated that the US is willing to return, and American diplomats in Vienna are being briefed by other powers.

The Vienna accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was meant to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program in return for loosening economic sanctions against Iran.

Following the US decision to withdraw and reimpose sanctions, Iran has ramped up its nuclear program again by enriching uranium beyond the thresholds allowed in the agreement. Tehran has also restricted monitors from the UN atomic watchdog from accessing its nuclear facilities, raising concerns about what the country is doing behind closed doors.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a press conference during an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meeting, in Stockholm, Sweden, Dec. 2, 2021. (Jonathan Nackstrand/Pool Photo via AP)

The talks, which restarted late last month in Vienna months after they were suspended, got off to a bumpy start, with Iran digging in and its negotiating partners openly voicing frustration and pessimism.

After five days of talks, the United States said Iran did not appear to be serious. European diplomats accused Iran of backtracking on previous promises. Even Russia, which has stronger relations with Iran, questioned Iran’s commitment to the process.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Tuesday that he was not hopeful for a satisfactory resolution of the talks.

“As we continue to believe that a return to compliance with the agreement is the best way forward, that is not an infinite prospect,” Blinken said, “because what we will not allow is for Iran to, in effect, tread water at talks and not come forward with any meaningful and serious propositions for resolving the outstanding issues to returning to compliance while at the same time advancing its program.”

Asked if he was hopeful, Blinken replied: “‘Hopeful’ is probably not a word I’d use based on what we’ve seen so far.”

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