|Iran and the P5 (the UK, China, France, Russia, and Germany) resume talks in Vienna, Austria on Nov 29, 2021 (photo: EU delegation in Vienna/ Reuters)
The Russian representative, Mikhail Ulyanov, called the opening of the talks “successful”. Ali Bagheri Kani, the new Iranian chief negotiator, said he was optimistic. The participants agreed on an agenda focused on lifting the current economic sanctions on Tehran.
Opportunity to harmonize interests and views
Before the talks, they had differing views on removing sanctions on Iran. Iran’s negotiating team says Tehran is serious about reaching a ‘fair agreement’ and its main focus in the talks will be on lifting the American sanctions and ensuring Iranian interests. Iran asked the US to unfreeze 10 billion USD of frozen assets as a sign of goodwill if the US wants to come back to the nuclear talks.
President Joe Biden signaled that the US wants to return to the 2015 nuclear deal. But prior to the talks, US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley said signs from Iran “are not particularly encouraging.” The US is indirectly participating in the talks through separate meetings with the JCPOA members.
Meanwhile Russia’s stance is to push the talks to progress after the prolonged pause. Although some progress has been made in the previous six rounds of negotiations in Vienna, the parties have failed to achieve the main goal of fully restoring the JCPOA agreement. This round of talks is aimed at salvaging the 2015 deal, but there are concerns that Iran is secretly accelerating its nuclear program and taking a tough approach.
Opportunity to for revive the deal
The JCPOA collapsed in 2018 when President Trump withdrew the US from the deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy. Since taking office, President Biden has said he will rejoin the nuclear deal and lift the sanctions if Tehran returns to strict compliance with the deal by rolling back the nuclear activities it has carried out in retaliation for the sanctions imposed by Donald Trump.
Iran planned 6 rounds of indirect talks with the Biden administration, which were canceled in June when Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner, became Iran’s President. Iran has said it’s ready to resume those talks but has not set a specific date. Iran’s reduced compliance with the JCPOA, the international community warned. The EU and other world powers are working hard to revive the JCPOA.
Although Washington is wary of Tehran's intentions, many analysts say that Iran is still in favor of returning to the JCPOA. Iran needs the sanctions removed and that will not happen without US approval. Iran’s agreement to resume negotiations is a hopeful gesture.