Positive signal in Iran nuclear deal

Iran has expressed optimism about the direction of the latest round of negotiations in Vienna (Austria) on the restoration of the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was signed in 2015.

A meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: Reuters)
A meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: Reuters)

Tehran considered the approach of the powers involved in direct negotiations, including Russia, China, the UK, France, and Germany, as a serious act of goodwill. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said that if the major powers keep a positive attitude and put themselves in Tehran’s position, it is likely that the nuclear agreement will soon be revived.

The optimism of the Iranian side is also reflected in the statements of Russia and the European Union (EU). Russia’s envoy to talks on the nuclear pact, Mikhail Ulyanov, said that the talks had made “indisputable” progress, with the parties seriously discussing, even in informal meetings, the dismantling of the sanctions against Iran.

This is also the pre-condition that Iran offered towards returning to compliance with the requirements of the JCPOA agreement. High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell acknowledged the “better atmosphere” of the talks in Vienna in restoring an agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear activities.

However, the negotiation round still has some sticking points, especially unresolved disagreements between Iran and the US, which only participate in negotiations in an indirect capacity. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed scepticism about the ability of the parties to reach an agreement in the context of the approaching deadline. Washington is considering other options in case if the talks fail and have criticised Iran for not halting nuclear development.

While Iran vehemently opposed the US' unilateral imposition of sanctions on the Islamic State, including the oil sector, leaving the country in a difficult economic situation, Washington and its allies showed their backlash over Tehran’s continued enrichment of uranium.

The US believed that with uranium enrichment technology, Iran can completely make a nuclear bomb. However, Tehran rejected the viewpoint of the US and the West, asserting that its nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes. Head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi confirmed that he had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Tehran was carrying out activities to enrich uranium to 60% purity.

In the context that US sanctions have not been lifted, Iran must strive to develop its own economy and improve relations with countries in the region, especially Arab countries. Iran and Syria have just reached an agreement to establish a common special economic zone and a common bank to promote bilateral economic cooperation.

Iran is now close to fully restoring relations with Saudi Arabia, a close US ally in the region. This good signal is the result of Tehran and Riyadh having conducted four rounds of negotiations under the mediation of Iraq, aimed at “reducing tensions” in bilateral relations. Accordingly, Iran and Saudi Arabia discussed a plan to reopen embassies, which have been closed since 2016.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian has just visited China and discussed with his counterpart of the host country on measures to strengthen bilateral relations. The two sides announced the implementation of the 25-year Iran-China strategic partnership cooperation agreement, which was signed in Tehran in March 2021, as well as agreed to step up cooperation in the fields of energy, infrastructure, science-technology, healthcare, etc.

Iran has also restored the right to vote at the United Nations General Assembly after the US enabled Tehran to use funds frozen in the Republic of Korea to pay some 16.2 million USD it owed to the world body. Iran lost its vote in the 193-member General Assembly in January because it was more than two years in arrears. It owed a total of more than 65 million USD but only paid the minimum amount required to regain its vote.

The international community has always expected positive signals in negotiations between Iran and major powers. The fact that the parties continue to show goodwill and the prospect of working together to restore the Iran nuclear deal will bring peace and stability back to the Middle East.