Tehran sees ‘significant progress’ in nuclear talks

Published February 22, 2022
In this file photo, Iranian flag flies in front of the UN office in Vienna, Austria. — Reuters
In this file photo, Iranian flag flies in front of the UN office in Vienna, Austria. — Reuters

DUBAI: Talks in Vienna on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers have made “significant progress”, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday.

Separately, Iran’s top security official Ali Shamkhani said talks with European negotiators were ongoing and would continue while negotiations with the United States were not on the agenda because they would not be the source of “any breakthroughs”.

Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington have been held in Vienna since April amid fears about Tehran’s nuclear advances, seen by Western powers as irreversible unless an agreement is struck soon.

While Khatibzadeh said significant progress was made, he also noted that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” in the Vienna talks. “The remaining issues are the hardest,” he told a weekly press briefing.

Khatibzadeh said that Iran’s top security body, the Supreme National Security Council, handles the Vienna talks. It reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s top authority.

Reuters reported last week that a US-Iranian deal is taking shape in Vienna after months of indirect talks to revive the nuclear pact, which Washington abandoned in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump.

The draft text of the agreement also alluded to other issues, including unfreezing billions of dollars in Iranian funds in South Korean banks, and the release of Western prisoners held in Iran.

Iran is ready to swap prisoners with the United States, Iran’s foreign minister said on Saturday, adding that talks to revive the nuclear deal could succeed “at the earliest possible time” if the United States made the necessary political decisions.

The 2015 deal between Iran and major powers limited Iran’s enrichment of uranium to make it harder for Tehran to develop material for nuclear weapons, in return for a lifting of international sanctions against Tehran.

Major sanctions

In Doha, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday that talks in Vienna on reviving Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers cannot succeed unless the United States is prepared to lift sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Reuters reported last week that a US-Iranian deal is taking shape in Vienna after months of indirect talks to revive a pact Washington abandoned in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump.

“The United States must prove its will to lift major sanctions,” Raisi said in a joint news conference with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha.

US-Jewish leaders

Meanwhile, Israel is pressing the US about the terms of an emerging Iranian nuclear deal, Israeli officials said on Monday, raising the prospect of a bilateral day-after agreement with Washington to address their worries.

While not a party to the nuclear negotiations between Iran and world powers in Vienna, Israel has conferred with the US administration in hope of wielding more clout over any revival of a 2015 deal with Tehran that was reached over its objections.

“We were unhappy with the deal, to begin with...and of course, we are more unhappy with (the emerging) deal,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told US-Jewish leaders.—Reuters

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2022

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