The chief nuclear negotiators of Iran and the US were present in Doha and immediately had contact with the EU intermediary. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri met EU envoy Enrique More, who will shuttle between the US and Iranian sides. Meanwhile, US Iran Special Envoy Rob Malley also had a meeting with the Foreign Minister of the host country to discuss joint diplomatic efforts to find a solution to restore the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The US National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, John Kirby, emphasised that Washington believes in the ability to revive the JCPOA, as well as the importance of this historic nuclear agreement. Kirby’s statement came after High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell just made an important visit to Iran. The purpose of Borrell’s first visit to Tehran since February 2020 was nothing more than an effort to promote negotiations to restore the Iran nuclear deal. In response, Tehran also announced its readiness to resume negotiations with major powers on the JCPOA agreementand expressed its hope to find a way to resolve differences through negotiations.
Efforts to settle differences through negotiations between Iran and the US have received support from the international community. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed his hope that the parties would take the necessary steps for the restoration of the JCPOA as it is important for security and stability throughout the region. But Ankara also expressed its support for Iran as it is firmly opposed to unilateral sanctions against Tehran.
However, the recent stance and statements of the parties concerned show that smooth negotiations between Iran and the US will be difficult in reaching the finish line. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadehsaid the content of the talks will not be related to the nuclear issue, but focused on the current disagreements and the lifting of sanctions imposed by Washington against Tehran.
Meanwhile, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, made a firm statement that Tehran will further develop its nuclear programmeuntil the West changes its “illegal behaviour” that the Islamic State considers unjust.
While the Iranian side made a precondition of lifting sanctions, the US said that Tehran must comply with all provisions and obligations in the JCPOA agreement before Washington considers lifting any sanctions. The international community is concerned about the rigidity ofIran and the US which may make the negotiations fail as in previous attempts.
Iran signed the JCPOA with the P5+1 Group (including five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany) in 2015. However, US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the agreementin May 2018 and re-imposed sanctions against Iran, leading to Tehran gradually abandoning some of its commitments in the agreement. Since April 2021, Iran and the remaining parties to the JCPOA have held many rounds of direct negotiations in Vienna (Austria) to revive this agreement. The US participates in negotiations indirectly through the EU.
In the latest round of negotiations in Vienna in March 2022, Iran made several conditions, including asking the US to remove the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the list of terrorist organisations. However, Washington flatly rejected Tehran’s demands and negotiations stalled again.
Despite being cautious, the negotiating parties, especially the US side, are stepping up and rushing contacts with Iran and the EU. A positive result, if achieved, for this thorny and long-standing issue, will be a meaningful gift for US President Joe Biden’s first visit to the Middle East region, scheduled to take place in two weeks.