Hopes for a swift conclusion of talks with Iran on a revived nuclear deal have waned after the US immediately dismissed Iran’s latest proposal as “not constructive”.
Washington’s swift response to the Iranian text, which was delivered shortly before 3 a.m. Friday Tehran time, directly refuted Tehran’s claims that its proposals took “a constructive approach” aimed at “finalizing the talks”. ” presented.
Minutes after the EU received Iran’s proposals and passed them to Washington, the Biden administration gave it a temporary, but sudden, thumbs up.
“We can confirm that we have received Iran’s response through the European Union,” a State Department spokesman said. “We are studying it and will respond through the EU, but unfortunately it is not constructive.”
An unnamed US official was quoted in Politico as saying: “Based on their response, we seem to be moving backwards.”
It is not clear what was in the Iranian text that was the latest round in one-on-one exchanges with Washington aimed at revising a draft agreement submitted by the European Union on 8 August. Iran gave its first reaction to the draft on August 15, which was followed by a response from the US. The latest Iranian document, in turn, was a response to the American text.
Officials on both sides were cautiously optimistic about the prospect of convergence on a final deal that would revive the 2015 nuclear deal in which Iran accepted strict limits on its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. The agreement has been severely eroded since Donald Trump withdrew US participation in 2018 and reimposed sanctions.
Last week, US national security spokesman John Kirby praised the Iranian concessions and said on Wednesday this week that the White House was “hoping” there would be an agreement.
Earlier on Friday in Tehran, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanani, said Iran’s latest text presented “a constructive approach aimed at finalizing the talks”.
French President Emmanuel Macron also struck an optimistic note on Wednesday while addressing French diplomats in Paris, saying he hoped a new deal could be agreed “in the next few days”.
But Ali Alizadeh, a member of the Iranian Parliament Security Commission, had tempered that optimism, warning that the US position did not align with the text of the EU draft, saying it dashed his earlier hopes. Given that the settlement was a few days away.
The Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdullahian, said Iran still needed strong guarantees that the lifting of US sanctions would have a practical effect, and could not be easily reimposed by a future US administration.
“On guarantees, we need a stronger lesson,” the minister said at a news conference in Moscow with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
Joe Biden has said he can guarantee America’s compliance with the agreement under his presidency, but not by a future administration – actually guaranteeing Iran only two years of sanctions relief.
The US has sought to comfort Tehran by pledging that any trade or investment deal signed before a future US administration pact would be legally free from US sanctions for five years.
Iran is also seeking guarantees that by the time the agreement is fully implemented, the West will completely abandon its three-year investigation of unexplained nuclear particles found at nuclear sites before 2003. The European Union has suggested that the investigation may be abandoned as long as it is credible. Explanations are provided.
Iran fears the continuation of the investigation could be used as an excuse to maintain or reimpose sanctions.
Russian envoy for nuclear talks in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, urged the West to calm down, saying: “There are no current illegal activities taking place there.”
One of the toughest issues is how to handle Iran’s advanced centrifuges and surplus stocks of enriched uranium by Iranians in violation of the original agreement.
The West wanted to destroy these centrifuges or remove them from Iran, but Iran only wants to destroy and store these devices within Iran.
Iran argues that storing centrifuges in an IAEA-monitored building would serve as Damocles’ sword, and serve as a guarantee that the US would abide by the agreement. US Republicans also want guarantees that enriched surplus uranium will not be sent to Russia without UN oversight.
Israeli officials say the deal opens a path for an Iranian nuclear weapon as it would be allowed to start operating advanced centrifuges by 2026 and then enrich more uranium to higher levels by 2031. But deal advocates say the alternative, no deal — is worse, and these expiration dates could be extended in negotiations.