The EU has said it is studying Iran’s response to a draft deal aimed at salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal while the bloc tries to avert the deal’s total collapse and a new crisis.
Tehran’s response to the draft was received by the EU late Monday. “We study it and consult with the other JCPOA [nuclear accord] participants and the US on the way forward,” said an EU spokesman. EU officials have described the draft, which was discussed by Iran and the US as the “final text” in indirect talks in Vienna this month.
Analysts and diplomats said there were signs of progress in negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement under which the US would agree to rejoin the deal and lift many sanctions on Iran if Tehran drastically eases its nuclear activities reduced. But after 16 months of EU-brokered talks that often stalled, questions still lingered as key players blamed each other for deadlocks.
A diplomat briefed on the talks said the main obstacle to a deal is Iran’s insistence that Joe Biden’s government provide guarantees regarding the economic benefits Tehran expects from the sanctions lifting and its concern that a future US government could unilaterally abandon the agreement.
The nuclear crisis was sparked after former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018 and imposed hundreds of crippling sanctions on the republic. Virtually cut off from the global financial system, Iran has responded with increased nuclear activity and is now enriching uranium to near weapons-grade levels.
Experts have said it is virtually impossible for the Biden government to provide the guarantees Tehran wants.
However, the diplomat said the US has agreed to significantly extend the time foreign companies operating in Iran are allowed to leave if nuclear-related sanctions are re-imposed. Currently, the exit period for companies is between 90 and 180 days. The diplomat said the exact timeline has not been agreed, but “it is the best guarantee the US can give,” the diplomat said.
There have also been discussions about the details of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s surveillance regime, with Tehran saying it was too harsh, the diplomat said.
One of the obstacles to an agreement was Iran’s request that the IAEA deploy a historical probe to trace nuclear material found in three undeclared locations. “They have discussed some of the issues and there is more willingness to do so [agree], it’s now more about the length and timeframe of certain things,” said the diplomat. “It’s more about details than principles.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Monday that there were three remaining “logical” concerns Tehran wanted to address before signing an agreement.
“To take the final step, the US must show flexibility,” Amirabdollahian told Iranian journalists.
He added that the US had verbally agreed to two of Iran’s concerns, but they needed to be included in the draft document. The third problem, he said, relates to guarantees. Amirabdollahian gave no further information.
“If we don’t reach an agreement, it wouldn’t be the end of the world,” he said. “They talk about their plan B. We also have our plan B.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday the government agreed with the EU mediators’ position that “what is negotiable has been negotiated”.
“The only way to achieve a mutual return to JCPOA compliance is for Iran to drop further unacceptable demands that go beyond the scope of the JCPOA,” Price said. “We have long dismissed these demands as irrelevant.”
https://www.ft.com/content/b0538fb0-d083-4cbd-84e0-c2499d4a3b96 The EU is considering Iran’s response to the ‘final text’ of the nuclear deal