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The United States is participating in talks in Vienna on Tuesday to try to save the international Iran nuclear deal, marking a notable development in American policy.
Joe Biden ready to negotiate on the Iranian nuclear issue. The United States is participating from Tuesday in discussions in Vienna to try to save the international agreement that his predecessor, Donald Trump, had decided to leave.
The United States will not be at the same table as Tehran, however, and it is the Europeans who will act as intermediary between the two parties, in the hope of achieving concrete results after two months of stalemate.
This is “an important milestone, showing that both the United States and Iran are serious about breaking inertia and the wait-and-see pattern of saying ‘the ball is in the other court’,” Ali commented on Twitter. Vaez, from the conflict prevention organization International Crisis Group.
The new US president, Joe Biden, has said he is ready to return to the agreement signed in 2015 in Vienna, which aims to ensure that Iran does not seek to acquire the atomic bomb.
His predecessor Donald Trump had unilaterally denounced him in 2018, reinstating and even toughening sanctions against Tehran.
But without lifting these punitive measures that are suffocating its economy, Iran does not want to resume its nuclear commitments, from which it has freed itself over the months.
Since nobody wants to take the first step, the idea is to put in place “a framework defining parallel stages”, explains Ali Vaez.
“Each party can save face and together define a roadmap,” adds Suzanne DiMaggio, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.
On the one hand, there will be a meeting on Tuesday at 12:30 GMT of the joint committee in the presence of all the signatories of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action): Iran, Germany, France, United Kingdom, China, Russia, all under the aegis of the EU represented by the Deputy Secretary General of the External Action Service, Enrique Mora.
At the same time, “expert meetings will be held for fifteen days, a month, we do not know”, details a European diplomat based in the Austrian capital.
On the other side, the American delegation will be held, in another place and without any contact with the Islamic Republic which has ruled out any “meeting” with the United States.
This format “does not make things easier, but basically it is not […] to invent something new, we are going back to what existed in 2015, “Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov told national agencies on Monday.
For Kelsey Davenport, director of non-proliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, “this shuttle diplomacy is certainly not ideal, but the EU is well placed to break the deadlock and coordinate measures necessary to restore the agreement “.
This expert calls for “a first daring gesture on both sides to inject momentum into the process and demonstrate the political will of each”.
Lift the sanctions
Washington could for example unblock “access to foreign financial transactions and facilitate humanitarian aid” – drugs and medical equipment in particular, she said, while Tehran could in return stop uranium enrichment to the tune of 20%.
But the task will not be easy, warn experts.
“The problem is everything that is irreversible like the research activities undertaken by Tehran [au cours des derniers mois]”, underlines the interviewed diplomat.
As for the American administration, will it agree to lift all sanctions, as Iran is demanding?
Tehran repeated it on Monday: everything “depends” on the ability of the Europeans and the signatories of the text “to remind the United States of their commitments”, insisted the spokesman for Iranian diplomacy, Saïd Khatibzadeh.
On the eve of the talks, Washington wanted to be optimistic.
“If we are realistic, we can do it,” said US envoy Rob Malley in a television interview. “We are going to have to do an ant job to look at the sanctions and see what can be done to ensure that Iran enjoys the advantages that the agreement was supposed to offer it,” he added.
“Sorting out will be tricky,” warns Kesley Davenport, who also points to “those who want to torpedo the agreement” in each of the two enemy countries.