Nuclear deal talks: Tough stance on Tehran

Iuring the Vienna talks on restoring the nuclear deal with Iran (JCPOA), European negotiators took a tough stance on Tehran. “We urgently call on Iran not to make any unrealistic demands that are outside of the JCPOA,” said the group of the “E3” group of the three European countries involved in the negotiations, Germany, France and Great Britain. The Europeans expressly pointed out that demands by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for disclosure of possible secret nuclear tests by Iran in the past are non-negotiable.

Tehran demands that the IAEA close this chapter. It is about traces of enriched uranium that IAEA inspectors found at three locations in Iran, which Iran, contrary to its obligations, had not reported. The traces are probably more than two decades old, but according to the IAEA, the explanations of the Iranian leadership are “not credible”.

“The text is on the table”

Western diplomats exclude the possibility that this IAEA procedure will become a bargaining chip in the course of a deal via the JCPOA, because according to them this would seriously impair the independence of the UN agency. Iran, however, regards the investigation of past activities as a political issue, fearing a lever for future sanctions and demanding “guarantees” that this will not happen. The investigations were allegedly prompted by information from secret services, which the IAEA followed up with its own expertise.

In 2015, the JCPOA action plan to curb the Iranian nuclear program was agreed in the Austrian capital, from which the United States had withdrawn since 2018 and which Iran is no longer observing. A return to the rules of the JCPOA has been under negotiation since April 2021. There is a largely negotiated text on how to lift American sanctions and ramp back and control Iran’s nuclear program, but talks have been on hold for months.

The Europeans are now urging that the existing draft – the last version presented at the end of July by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell, who is coordinating the talks – should not be put up for further discussion. “The text is on the table.” It will not be renegotiated again. What is currently taking place are only “technical discussions about the Iranian reactions to the text”. Iran must decide whether it wants to complete the “deal”, which is still possible.

Statement by Sergey Lavrov

With the assessment that the current talks do not represent a new round of negotiations, the Europeans are contradicting the position of Russia, which had spoken of a “new round”. Moscow had already given the impression in March that it wanted to torpedo the negotiations in view of the new geopolitical situation after the start of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. However, this debate was quickly ended.

Now the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has drawn attention to himself again with a statement on the ongoing Vienna negotiations: The JCPOA should be “renewed exclusively in the version in which it was approved by the UN Security Council, without any additions or restrictions”. he said on Friday, according to the Interfax agency. According to Lavrov, the United States was trying to make a changed plan the basis of a new agreement. The United States had unilaterally withdrawn from the agreement. “And because Washington tried to destroy it, Washington must of course also revise its position and return to the original agreements.”

What this claim refers to is unclear. Western diplomats also agree that the point is to return to the JCPOA without adding additional topics – this is shown not least by the statement at E3 over the weekend. However, it is now a question of bringing the developments since 2018 back to the status of the JCPOA, which are of course things that are not there yet. It is about American sanctions, Iran’s worryingly advanced uranium enrichment and the significant restrictions on the IAEA inspections.

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