Iranian envoy leaves as EU says it’s time to decide on nuclear talks


  • Talks bog down after Russia demands trade guarantee
  • Sanctions against Ukraine must not affect its activities in Iran
  • Differences remain between Iran and the United States

VIENNA, March 7 (Reuters) – Iran and the United States must reach a political decision within days to avoid the collapse of indirect talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal after 11 months of rocky talks by a last-minute Russian request for waiver of sanctions.

Senior European Union envoy Enrique Mora, who is coordinating the talks, tweeted: “Just to clarify. There are no more ‘expert level talks’. No more ‘formal meetings.’ It’s time, in the next few days, for political decisions to put an end to #ViennaTalks. The rest is noise.”

Mora’s Twitter post follows Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani’s departure on Monday for consultations in Tehran and a report in Iranian media that experts would continue the talks in Vienna.

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If the talks fail, it could carry the risk that Tehran could find itself in a short sprint of nuclear weapons and start a new war in the Middle East. It could also prompt the West to impose tougher sanctions on Iran and further drive up global oil prices already strained by the Ukraine conflict.

Parties involved in talks between Tehran and world powers in Vienna said last week that a deal should be reached within days.

EU negotiators from France, Britain and Germany had already temporarily walked out of the talks as they believed they had gone as far as they could and it was now up to the two main protagonists to agree on outstanding issues, including understood the extent to which sanctions against Iran would be rolled back.

Over the weekend, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov complicated matters when he said Moscow wanted a guarantee from the United States that its trade, investment and military-technical cooperation with the Iran would not be hampered by the sanctions imposed on Russia since it invaded Ukraine.

On Monday, Lavrov insisted on Moscow’s request by telling Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in a phone conversation that the revived nuclear deal should not allow any discrimination between participants. Read more

France on Monday warned Russia not to resort to blackmail to revive the agreement.

Oil prices rose to their highest level since 2008 on Monday amid market supply fears as the United States and its European allies considered banning imports of Russian oil and the prospect of a return rate of Iranian crude on world markets was receding. Read more

“TO TRY”

Diplomats told Reuters that several issues still needed to be resolved in talks to revive the nuclear pact, under which Tehran limited its nuclear program in return for relief from US, EU and UN sanctions.

In 2018, then-US President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear pact and reimposed tough sanctions that reduced Tehran’s oil exports.

Eurasia consultancy group Iran analyst Henry Rome said the talks were “certainly on a very delicate point”.

“I think the new Russian demand is about to further delay progress,” he said.

While Tehran has said it will not allow “any foreign element to harm its national interests”, Iran’s top security official Ali Shamkhani on Monday called on Washington to make political decisions. Read more

“The priority of Iranian negotiators is to resolve the remaining issues which are considered (a)…the red line. Quick access to a solid agreement requires new initiatives from all parties,” Shamkhani tweeted. Read more

A European diplomat said: “The Russians are really trying and the Iranians are not happy, even if they don’t say it too publicly. We are trying to find a way through.”

Russia’s concerns about the impact of Western sanctions on its relations with Iran follow a push by senior Iranian officials for deeper ties since diehard Ebrahim Raisi became president last year.

Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called for closer ties with Russia because of his deep distrust of the United States.

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Written by John Irish and Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Howard Goller

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