Thu 17 February 2022:
Iranian negotiator says deal is ‘closer than ever’ as US State Department stresses that days ahead will be ‘decisive’.
Talks in Vienna to revive the Iranian nuclear deal are nearing their conclusion, Iranian and US officials have suggested, raising hopes the agreement may soon be restored.
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, said on Wednesday that the parties in the Austrian capital are “closer than ever” to reaching a deal.
In Washington, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the coming days would decide whether the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), can be restored.
“Our assessment is that we are in the midst of the very final stages of, as I said before, a complex negotiation with the key stakeholders here,” Price said.
“This is a decisive period during which we’ll be able to determine whether a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA is in the offing or if it’s not.”
Around the same time that Prince was delivering his remarks from the State Department, Kani wrote on Twitter, “After weeks of intensive talks, we are closer than ever to an agreement; nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, though.”
The Iranian diplomat also called on his negotiating counterparts in Vienna to avoid “intransigence” and learn from the past four years since former US President Donald Trump nixed the deal. “Time for their serious decisions,” he wrote.
The 2015 multilateral agreement saw Iran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of sanctions against its economy.
But since Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018, Washington has been enforcing a “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against Tehran. In response, Iran has ramped up its nuclear programme, including uranium enrichment.
Earlier this month, Washington and Tehran resumed indirect talks in Vienna to restore the pact as part of an eighth round of negotiations.
Price on Wednesday renewed the US’s call for direct talks to salvage the accord.
“We have said for some time now that we would find direct negotiations in the context of Vienna to be to our advantage; it would be to the benefit of our attempts to seek to achieve or at least test the proposition of whether we can achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA,” he said.
US officials have previously warned that the window of opportunity to revive the pact was weeks.
But Price said on Wednesday that talks in “the coming days” would be decisive, suggesting that the fate of the agreement hinges on the outcome of the current round of talks in Vienna.
US Republicans and hawkish Democrats, including some key lawmakers, have recently voiced opposition to reviving the deal, arguing that any agreement with Tehran should address Iran’s ballistic missile programme and regional activities – issues Iranian officials have said they are unwilling to discuss with Washington.
Despite the growing opposition in Washington, a Morning Consult poll released on Wednesday – which surveyed 2,005 US registered voters – showed that 53 percent of respondents back the JCPOA, while only 24 percent oppose it.
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