D.he talks in Vienna about the Iranian nuclear program have been postponed again. The international steering group that is negotiating a possible restoration of the 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA) wants to meet again next Thursday. Representatives of Iran and those of Russia, China and the three European states Great Britain, France and Germany sit together under the guidance of the EU; American diplomats are in Vienna separately from them.
Essentially, four questions remain unanswered: First, the exact sequence in the step-by-step plan for withdrawing nuclear-related American sanctions on the one hand and Iranian activities beyond the JCPOA on the other. Second, what should happen to centrifuges that Iran would have to dismantle again. Thirdly, how the Iranians can receive the greatest possible guarantee that a party like the USA will not unilaterally withdraw from the JCPOA in 2018, and fourthly, how the Western demand for follow-up talks can be met.
“The most difficult decisions are still ahead of us”
European diplomats called the latest round “intensive and productive” and certified all delegations to have worked “with great commitment and seriousness”. “The most difficult decisions, however, are still ahead of us.” The head of the Iranian nuclear program and Tehran’s negotiator in Vienna, Abbas Araghdschi, said in the Iranian media: “We have come closer, but we are still a long way from an agreement.” He could not confirm that the nuclear negotiations in Vienna would enter their final round next week. Before that, the United States and other contracting parties would have to make “some difficult decisions”.
All of these formulations are similar to those that have been articulated in the past two months after the individual negotiation rounds. They indicate that, although goal-oriented work is being carried out, negotiations are also tough. The Iranians seem to see time on their side. Original assumptions that they want to conclude the talks before the start of the election campaign or at least by the Iranian presidential election on June 18 have not yet been confirmed.
In the meantime, it is more likely that there is continuity with the supreme spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, who is actually in power. However, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is putting pressure on it. In recent reports she has pointed out Iran’s lack of cooperation even in areas independent of the JCPOA. The IAEA ambassadors from the main member states will meet next week. Iranians and Americans are also sitting at the same table.