US and Iran likely to try reviving nuke talks after Biden Mideast trip — report

Despite fruitless round in Doha, efforts set to continue beyond July deadline beyond which IAEA says it will no longer be able to verify nuclear activities permitted under JCPOA

US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley and United States' top negotiator for Iran nuclear talks, center, speaks at the Doha Forum in Qatar, March 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Lujain Jo)
US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley and United States' top negotiator for Iran nuclear talks, center, speaks at the Doha Forum in Qatar, March 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Lujain Jo)

World powers are reportedly likely to reconvene for negotiations aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal after US President Joe Biden’s trip to the region later this month, even after an unproductive round of talks earlier this week in Doha.

Contacts will likely continue through July, even though the UN nuclear watchdog warned that it will be unable to effectively verify whether Iran’s nuclear activity is within the parameters of the original accord, two European diplomats familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News on Friday.

Nonetheless, the sides will likely return to Doha after Biden’s July 13-16 trip to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia, a third source told Bloomberg.

Negotiators gathered in Qatar at the beginning of the week after months of not convening at all due to differences between the US and Iran. The decision to come back to the negotiating table led some to believe progress was imminent. But the US said after several days of indirect talks that Iran did not come with serious proposals.

The State Department said Iran “raised issues wholly unrelated to the JCPOA and apparently is not ready to make a fundamental decision on whether it wants to revive the deal or bury it.”

Still, Iran’s UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi told the UN Security Council on Thursday that the Iranian “negotiating team is ready to engage constructively again to conclude and reach [an] agreement.”

In this photo released by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Enrique Mora, a leading European Union diplomat, second right, attends a meeting with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani, third left, in Tehran, Iran, March 27, 2022. (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)

Despite the International Atomic Energy Agency’s warnings regarding its enforcement capabilities, the US appears unwilling to give up on its effort to revive the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, convinced that alternatives are far less effective and likely to achieve.

This week’s Doha talks focused on oil sanctions, with Iran pushing for access to funds blocked by South Korea as well as the removal of sanctions on its airlines and on the business operations of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Bloomberg reported.

A source told the news agency that demands regarding the IRGC are unlikely to be met but others are within reason.

The Biden administration has been working to revive the agreement, which placed curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which Iran insists it has never received.

Nuclear talks based in Vienna had hit a “pause” in March. Since the deal’s collapse, Iran has been running advanced centrifuges and rapidly growing stockpiles of enriched uranium to 60% purity, a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels.

However, Tehran continues to suffer under intense economic sanctions while the West hopes to again curtail its nuclear program.

While the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency hasn’t been able to verify Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium, it estimates that the stockpile is more than 15 times the amount allowed under the JCPOA, including uranium enriched to 20% and 60%.

Also, the IAEA reported to the Security Council this week that Iran has started to install additional advanced centrifuges at enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordo.

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