TEHRAN (Iran News) – After a two-day break, talks in Vienna resumed on Monday as negotiators returned from capitals with new instructions on how to continue the talks.
Last week on Friday, the chief negotiators of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the three European countries – Britain, France, and Germany (E3) – returned to capitals to handle their political affairs and to hold some consultations for two days.
In the meantime, press reports suggested that much of the thorny issues have been resolved and that the negotiators needed political decisions. While the chief negotiators returned to capitals, expert negotiations continued non-stop and the return of chief negotiators to their countries didn’t mean the 8th round of talks had stopped, an indication that the conclusion of the talks was pending a political decision.
But when the negotiators returned, Western diplomatic circles began complaining again about the slow pace of the talks. “Negotiations are still moving too slowly and we are running out of time. Key nuclear and sanctions lifting issues remain unresolved,” a senior E3 source told journalist Stephanie Liechtenstein and Laurence Norman, the Wall Street Journal correspondent.
The pace at which the talks are proceeding may have been slowed down but they are moving on. And this is natural given the extent of issues under discussion. Iran has made everything in its power to constructively engage in the talks. It has actively contributed to the progress of the talks through drafting and presenting innovative proposals.
The proposals covered a range of important issues. The negotiators have largely focused on four major points: Iran’s nuclear activities, U.S. sanctions, verification, and guarantees.
According to Norman, progress has been made in regard to sanctions lifting, nuclear measures, and how to construct an implementation. But there is a standoff with regard to legal guarantees.
But no significant progress was achieved concerning the guarantees. Norman said the Iranian negotiating team has put some ideas on the table. But the U.S. has signaled that it can’t provide legally binding guarantees.
“Basically, there are proposals on the table on how economic operators can get some comfort if a new American administration reimposes sanctions,” a person close to the talks told Norman, adding, “So we are working on that but there are no real, magic ideas.”
Of note, Iran has demanded guarantees from the U.S. that it won’t renege again on its commitments under a revived deal. Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on May 8, 2018, and imposed an array of sanctions on Iran while Iran was completely honoring its commitments under the deal.
For many good reasons, Iran does not want to see this illegal behavior on the part of the U.S. happen again. This is even more important to Iran than ever before given the continued threats coming from Iran hawks on Capitol Hill. They have warned that any new Republican president will replicate what Trump did in 2018.
Slow progress in Vienna talks is natural as long as the U.S. refuses to provide reliable guarantees. It is up to the U.S. to expedite the process of the talks by constructively engaging in the talks.