EU diplomat: First meetings on Iran nuclear deal ‘constructive’

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The first meetings in Vienna to bring Iran and the U.S. back into the 2015 nuclear agreement were “constructive,” a European diplomat said Tuesday.

The meetings are part of efforts to break a stalemate between Washington and Tehran to reverse steps by both sides that violated the terms of the agreement.

“Constructive Joint Commission meeting. There’s unity and ambition for a joint diplomatic process with two expert groups on nuclear implementation and sanctions lifting,” tweeted Enrique Mora, the Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service, the European Union’s diplomatic service.

“As Coordinator I will intensify separate contacts here in Vienna with all relevant parties, including US.”

The meetings in Vienna are the most forward movement the Biden administration has taken as part of its efforts to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, that former President Trump withdrew from in 2018.

The JCPOA put significant limits on Iran’s nuclear activities as part of efforts to lengthen the time span the Islamic Republic would need to build a nuclear weapon.

Tehran maintains its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes.

The deal was heavily criticized by Republicans, some Democrats and the former Trump administration for not going far enough in eliminating Iran’s nuclear capabilities and failing to address other malign activities like support for fighting proxies in the Middle East and Iran’s ballistic missile programs, among other concerns.

Iran began violating the terms of the agreement in 2019 in retaliation for a maximum pressure campaign of sanctions imposed by then-President Trump when he pulled the U.S. out of the deal.

The sanctions included those that were removed as part of the terms of the agreement but ballooned to include penalties on a wide range of sectors of the Iranian economy and under designations for terrorism activities.

It is estimated that the U.S. has about 1,500 sanctions against Iran, including on its Central Bank and the National Iranian Oil Company.

Iranian officials have demanded the U.S. lift all sanctions related to its nuclear program.

But the Biden administration has said it would not ease such penalties until Tehran has verifiably rolled back its nuclear activities to the terms of the agreement.

The meetings in Vienna, where European, Russian and Chinese signatories to the deal are expected to shuttle between the U.S. and Iranian negotiators, is expected to establish a roadmap of “mutual compliance.”

“The short hand is compliance for compliance,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a briefing with reporters on Tuesday.

“There are obviously many more complexities involved in that but that will be the task ahead for our partners, the Europeans, as well as Russians and Chinese, in their talks with the Iranians going forward.”

The Iranians have dismissed direct talks with the Americans, while Price said the U.S. remains open to meeting directly.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for the U.S. to lift all sanctions before Iran returns to compliance with the deal.

U.S. officials have dismissed this “maximalist demand” a nonstarter.

“Calls for the United States to take unilateral gestures or conciliatory overtures that are unmatched by the Iranians, I don’t think that is constructive, we don’t think that is constructive.”

But he added, “What we recognize is that we will need to provide sanctions relief for sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA.” 

Tags 2015 nuclear deal Ali Khamenei Barack Obama Donald Trump Iran Joe Biden

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