JEDDAH: Talks on reviving the nuclear deal with Iran will pick up speed after a second round of negotiations ended in Vienna, delegates said on Saturday.
China’s envoy to the talks said all participants — China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and Iran — had agreed to accelerate work on issues including which sanctions on Iran the US would lift.
“All parties have agreed to further pick up their pace in subsequent days by engaging in more extensive, substantive work on sanctions-lifting as well as other relevant issues,” Wang Qun said.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions, collapsed in 2018 when the US pulled out. Donald Trump reimposed sanctions, and Iran responded by enriching fissile uranium to levels of purity banned under the deal.
New US President Joe Biden has offered to lift sanctions if Iran returns to compliance with the JCPOA, but so far Iran has insisted that sanctions must be eased first. Talks to break the deadlock began in Vienna last week, involving a group of signatories to the deal known as the Joint Commission.
The US is not present as Iran has declined face-to-face negotiation, but EU officials chairing the talks are carrying out shuttle diplomacy with a US delegation in a nearby hotel.
Wang said: “In the next few days we hope the Joint Commission will immediately start negotiating the specific formula of sanction-lifting.”
EU envoy Enrique Mora said: “Progress has been made in a far from easy task. Now we need more detailed work.”
Tehran’s chief negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, said the Iranian delegation had submitted proposed texts on nuclear issues and the lifting of sanctions, and that work on a common text, “at least in areas where there are common views,” could begin. While serious disagreements remained, “a new understanding appears to be emerging and there is now a common final goal among all,” he said.
The talks have been complicated by an Israeli sabotage attack last week, causing an explosion that crippled Iran’s flagship nuclear development plant at Natanz. Iran on Saturday named a man it wants to arrest in connection with the blast.
“Reza Karimi, the perpetrator of this sabotage ... has been identified” by Iran’s intelligence ministry, but had fled the country before the explosion, state TV said. “Necessary steps are underway for his arrest and return to the country through legal channels,” it said.
State TV also broadcast footage of rows of what it said were uranium enrichment centrifuges that had replaced the ones damaged in the blast at Natanz.