Months of nuclear deal negotiations are expected to result in an agreement – or a breakdown – within days.
Tehran, Iran – Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian says he is ready to travel to Vienna to finalise an agreement on restoring the country’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers as soon as all of its “red lines” are considered.
The comments on Friday came during a phone call with Josep Borell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief and coordinator of the negotiations in the Austrian capital.
The Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement Amirabdollahian had also told Borrell that Iran was ready to conclude the 11-month talks, but “haste” on the side of the Western parties could not undermine Iranian demands.
“The requirement for the presence of foreign ministers in Vienna and announcing a final agreement is contingent on fully observing Iran’s declared red lines, including effective economic guarantees,” Amirabdollahian was quoted as saying.
For his part, Borrell said he believed most of Iran’s demands have been met and that the talks to restore the Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is formally known, are on the path to their conclusion.
Iran has called for a wide scope of sanctions – including a “foreign terrorist organisation” designation – to be lifted; a mechanism to verify the effective lifting of sanctions and guarantees the United States will not abandon the deal again, as it unilaterally did in 2018.
There are growing signs an agreement could be imminent if a small but key number of issues are resolved.
“We must now walk the last few metres,” the United Kingdom’s chief negotiator, Stephanie al-Qaq, tweeted on Friday, and along with her counterparts from France and Germany, posted pictures of their teams to thank them, indicating the work is almost over.
However, the main representatives of the three European countries continued to hold high-level meetings on Friday, sitting down with Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani and deputy foreign minister for economic diplomacy, Mehdi Safari.
Russia and China also continue to support the restoration of the nuclear accord, as it appears the war in Ukraine has had no effect on any side’s willingness to back the talks.
IAEA director expected in Tehran
Beyond sanctions, nuclear-related issues also block the path to a final agreement. These could be resolved on Saturday, when the global nuclear watchdog’s chief is expected in Tehran.
Rafael Grossi, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) director general, has confirmed he will meet with senior officials in the Iranian capital before heading back to Vienna where he is expected to address reporters on Saturday evening.
A major issue that is expected to be discussed is Iran’s demand that an IAEA probe into four nuclear sites, where undisclosed radioactive particles were found, be discontinued.
Iran, which says the particles date more than 10 years ago, argues that the probe is a political ploy by the West and Israel and insists the issue of the possible military dimensions of its nuclear programme was resolved as part of the original JCPOA talks.
But Grossi on Wednesday made it clear that the IAEA will “never” abandon its safeguards investigation and will require “clarification” from Iran during his visit.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who wants the probe to remain open, spoke with Grossi on Thursday. The two are reportedly expected to speak again after Grossi leaves Tehran.
The IAEA on Thursday released its latest confidential report on Iran which, according to documents leaked to Western media outlets, said Iran has 33.2 kilogrammes of 60 percent enriched uranium, up from 17.7kg in November.
The JCPOA limited Iran’s enrichment levels to 3.67 percent and its stockpile to 202.8kg until 2031, but the country gradually abandoned those curbs after the US withdrawal, while also maintaining it will never seek a nuclear bomb.