USA and Iran clash on sanctions; USA see possible “dead end”
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By Francois Murphy, John Irish, Arshad Mohammed and Humeyra Pamuk
VIENNA / PARIS (Reuters) – US and Iranian officials argued on Friday over which sanctions the United States should lift in order to resume compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. Washington predicted a dead end if Tehran continues to demand that all sanctions be lifted since 2017.
As indirect talks in Vienna, the two nations set out tough positions on how to bring both back into full compliance with the deal made for the week, with some delegates citing progress.
The talks, in which representatives of the European Union commute between the remaining parties and the United States, aim to restore the core of the deal – restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of US and other international sanctions.
The United States was the first to oppose this deal under then-President Donald Trump, who vehemently opposed the deal and tried to ruin it. He withdrew, re-imposed the lifted sanctions and brought in many more. Iran responded by violating many of the nuclear restrictions.
“All Trump sanctions were directed against JCPOA and must be lifted – without distinction between arbitrary names,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Twitter, referring to the agreement by its full name, the joint comprehensive plan of action.
The United States stands ready to “lift sanctions that are incompatible with the JCPOA”. Although it has refused to elaborate, this appears to preclude sanctions that are formally unrelated to nuclear issues covered by the agreement.
A senior US State Department official told reporters that the United States had seen some signs of Iranian seriousness in returning to the nuclear pact, but “certainly not enough”.
“If Iran sticks to the position that every sanction imposed since 2017 must be lifted or there is no agreement, then we will face a dead end,” the senior US official told reporters on a conference call.
It remains to be seen whether the statements are about opening games or more solid positions. European officials said Iran negotiated hard at the beginning.
The remaining parties – Iran, the UK, China, France, Germany and Russia – met again on Friday after talks officially started on Tuesday and agreed to continue, Russian and Chinese envoys said.
“The #JCPOA participants took stock of the work done by experts over the past three days and noted the initial progress with satisfaction,” said Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s envoy to the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Twitter the meeting officially known as the Joint Commission.
“The Commission will meet again next week to keep the positive momentum going.”
The remaining parties have set up two expert-level working groups whose task it is to draw up lists of sanctions that the United States will lift and of nuclear restrictions that Iran will implement. Their work will continue between the meetings of the Joint Commission.
“All parties have narrowed their differences and we are seeing the momentum for consensus to gradually develop,” Wang Qun, China’s ambassador to the IAEA, told reporters.
“IRAN IS THE PACE CAR”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that diplomats would meet again in Vienna on Wednesday. The talks are expected to last for weeks.
“Given the technical complexity of the nuclear aspects and the legal complications of lifting sanctions, it would be very optimistic to spend a few weeks thinking,” said a senior European diplomatic source.
Some diplomats are hoping an agreement can be reached before the Iranian presidential election on June 18, or talks risk being pushed back until later in the year.
“Iran is the pace car for progress. If Tehran decides to move quickly ahead of the June presidential election, the US will almost certainly be receptive,” Henry Rome, an analyst with the Eurasia Group research firm, said in a note.
“That would require Iran to compromise on its sanctions and sequencing demands. If Tehran is dissatisfied with the US position or if Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is concerned about the political consequences of a diplomatic breakthrough in the face of a political presidential campaign, Tehran will tap. ” the brake.”
Khamenei, who has the last word on all state affairs, has spoken out against the gradual easing of sanctions.