In 2015, the Iran nuclear deal framework was worked up between Iran and a collection of world powers viz, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, Germany and the European Union. Based on this framework, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was announced in Vienna on 14th July, 2015. However, on 8th May, 2018, then President of the US, Donald Trump announced the unilateral withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA and the recent talks held in Vienna are aimed at revisiting this very withdrawal.
Senior diplomats from the signatories of the nuclear agreement — Iran, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany came together for the Vienna meetings under the chairmanship of the EU. Officials from America are not involved in the meetings, but are in a hotel nearby. The talks aim to determine which sanctions can be lifted by the US and what steps Iran can take to control Tehran's nuclear programmes. Abbas Araghchi, deputy foreign minister, is the leader of the Iranian delegation. While involved in bilateral talks, he has dismissed the conjecture that Iran might step back from the negotiations.
Two working groups
Two working groups have been set up to work on the complications and to mend the relations between Iran and the US, which is considered as progress by diplomatic measures. While the first group is assigned to examine ways in which the US can once again comply with the 2015 deal, i.e. by negotiating which economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the Trump Administration after its withdrawal can be taken back, the second working group is involved in exploration of ways by which Iran can re-enter the deal, i.e. through limiting its nuclear programme.
Attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility
The talks were briefly overshadowed by Iran’s response to the attack on Natanz uranium-enrichment facility on 11th April. US officials denied any involvement in the attack and alleged that it was carried out by Israel who has not responded with an appropriate answer either.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s response
Although the talks are considered by many to be positive thus far, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has been dismissive of them. He said that the offers provided by the delegates in the talks are usually arrogant and humiliating and that the initial offers for the lifting of sanctions was not worth looking at. At the same time, he also noted that if agreement could be derived during the talks, Iran was prepared to quickly come into compliance and denied that Iran would ever indulge in building nuclear weapons.
The primary task at hand for the diplomats in Vienna is to overcome the feeling of mistrust between the two nations and bring in a harmony. Although Iran and the US have expressed that they wish to have a successful conclusion from the talks, only time can tell whether these talks will be fruitful. The developments throughout the week indicate the willingness of both sides and show that the glimmer of hope remains.
This article has been written by Ruchira Sarma for The Paradigm.
See you next time…