VIENNA: Western officials warned Tehran on Sunday that negotiations to revive its nuclear deal could not continue indefinitely, after the sides announced a break following the election of a new hard-line president in Iran.
Negotiations have been ongoing in Vienna since April to work out how Iran and the US can both return to compliance with the nuclear pact, which Washington abandoned in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, and Iran subsequently violated.
Sunday’s pause in the talks came after Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-liner and fierce critic of the West, won Iran’s presidential election on Friday with 62% of the vote amid a historically low voter turnout.
Raisi will take office in early August, replacing Hassan Rouhani, under whom Tehran struck the deal agreeing to curbs to its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
Iranian and Western officials alike say Raisi’s rise is unlikely to alter Iran’s negotiating position: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei already has final say on all major policy.
The Western countries say the longer Iran violates the deal and produces banned nuclear material, the harder it becomes to restore the pact.
Talks on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers cannot continue indefinitely and a decision needs to be made soon, a senior diplomat from the ‘E3’ grouping of France, Germany and Britain said on Sunday.
“We continue to make progress but we still need to resolve the most difficult issues. As we have stated before, time is on nobody’s side. These talks cannot be open ended,” the diplomat said
“Delegations will now travel to capitals in order to consult with their leadership. We urge all sides to return to Vienna and be ready to conclude a deal. The time for decision is fast approaching.”
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan echoed those comments telling broadcaster ABC News that there was still “a fair distance to travel,” including on sanctions and on the nuclear commitments that Iran has to make.
On Sunday, Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said a Raisi government would be a “regime of brutal hangmen” with which world powers should not negotiate a new nuclear accord.
Bennett opened his first Cabinet meeting by slamming Raisi and calling on world powers to “wake up” to the perils of returning to a nuclear agreement with Tehran.
Bennett said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had chosen the “hangman of Tehran” to be the country’s next president, a man “infamous among Iranians and across the world for leading the death committees that executed thousands of innocent Iranian citizens throughout the years.”
He said Raisi’s election was “the last chance for the world powers to wake up before returning to the nuclear agreement and to understand who they’re doing business with. These guys are murderers, mass murderers.”
* With AP and Reuters