USA: A “long process”: can the nuclear deal with Iran still be saved?

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USA: a “long process”
Can the nuclear deal with Iran still be saved?

Almost six years ago it was a diplomatic triumph, today the nuclear deal with Iran is practically dead. With a lot of cautious optimism, the signs are now pointing to resuscitation. In Vienna, attempts are being made to overcome deep mistrust – there are first glimmers of hope before the start.

Negotiations to revive the nuclear deal with Iran began with cautious optimism. According to Iran, the first round of the new talks was constructive. The negotiations should continue on Friday, said chief negotiator Abbas Arakchi on state television. In the USA, too, there is a slightly positive mood.

“We expect that they will have difficult sections,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, with a view to talks in Vienna by top diplomats from the remaining parties to the agreement under the chairmanship of the European Union. “We expect this to be a long process.” The US government continues to believe that the diplomatic path is the right way forward, added Psaki.

Even before the talks began, there were the first positive signals. Robert Malley, US President Joe Biden’s representative on Iran, had told PBS that it was clear to the US government that in order to return to the nuclear deal, it would have to “lift sanctions that contradict the deal”. Iran welcomed the US announcement. This could be the “beginning of a correction of the bad process that has led diplomacy to a dead end,” said government spokesman Ali Rabiei in Tehran.

The Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov announced that the first talks had been “successful”. Nevertheless, the negotiations would take time: “It will take some time. How long? Nobody knows,” wrote Ulyanov on Twitter. “We are at the beginning of a complex process and it is too early to anticipate a result,” said Nabila Massrali, spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs representative, Josep Borrell. “Anything that is irreversible, like the research activities that Tehran has undertaken in the past few months, is problematic,” she added, referring to uranium enrichment among other things.

So far, Iran has refused to talk to the US

Arms Control Association’s Kelsey Davenport urged both sides to take “a bold first step” to get the process started and show political will. Washington could, for example, “open up access to foreign financial transactions and facilitate humanitarian aid,” said the expert. In return, Tehran could adjust the controversial uranium enrichment to 20 percent.

At the beginning, according to Russian information, two working groups of experts on sanctions and nuclear issues were set up and are to start work immediately. For the first time, a US delegation has also come, even if it is not at the negotiating table at least for the time being. At least officially, Iran has so far refused to speak to the US representatives. Tehran said that the lead EU should transfer important information from the negotiations to the US delegation. Only a return by the US to the agreement with the lifting of US sanctions and renewed compliance by Iran with all conditions would make the deal effective again.

The 2015 agreement, which was concluded between the UN veto powers and Germany on the one hand and Iran on the other, is considered to be an important building block for arms control. It is supposed to prevent the Islamic Republic from building a nuclear weapon. However, the United States withdrew from agreements in 2018 under ex-President Donald Trump and reinstated sanctions against Iran. As a result, Tehran violated more and more requirements and significantly increased its uranium supplies, which are necessary to build a bomb. Trump’s successor Biden has now agreed to new negotiations with Tehran.

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