The next mission

Thursday, 2021-04-08 16:28:40
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NDO – European negotiators with Russia and China are exerting efforts to save the Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in direct talks with Iran held in Vienna, Austria. At these, shuttle diplomacy is also taking place to bring the US and Iran back into indirect dialogue, opening up opportunities for cooperation to resolve their disagreements.

Direct negotiations between Iran and the JCPOA participating countries, including the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany (4+1 group), took place in the context of the historic nuclear agreement being on the brink of collapse. The European negotiators came to the meeting under great pressure, both to force the US to lift its anti-Tehran sanctions and to find a way to bring Iran back into full compliance with the JCPOA.

Iran has repeatedly criticised Europe for not complying with its commitment to protect the country's interests from US sanctions. To ease the pressure, Iran gradually withdrew from its commitments in the JCPOA. Just before entering negotiations, Iran stated the agenda of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna depends on whether the European countries and the 4+1 group urge the US to fulfil its obligations and act according to its commitments. Meanwhile, the US resolutely used the "stick" to put pressure on Iran, demanding it comply with all commitments before it will consider lifting the imposed sanctions. The fact that both Iran and the US have asked the other party to take action first makes the two sides unable to initiate dialogue, bringing the JCPOA to a standstill.

One of the tough measures that Iran has used in response to US sanctions is to increase its enrichment of Uranium. Iranian authorities recently stated that Iran has made 55kg of uranium, enriched to up to 20% - the point at which it is highly enriched - indicating quicker production than the 10 kg a month rate required by the Iranian law that created the process in January. Teheran said that if there was agreement with the US to return to JCPOA, Iran would immediately stop enriching uranium at 20%.

The confrontation between the US and Iran “cooled down” after the new administration in the US announced to re-join the JCPOA. However, the two sides are still arguing about who will act first to save the agreement. Iran has declared there will be no talks with the US, either directly or indirectly, if Washington does not completely lift its sanctions against Tehran.

Therefore, the promotion of “shuttle diplomacy” by the remaining parties, designed to bring Iran and the US into indirect negotiation in Vienna is considered to have beenan unexpected success. The US said that indirect discussions were the first step and hoped to have a better understanding of the roadmap to help both nations comply with the agreement. France, Russia, and China all welcomed the resumption of talks in Vienna, and believe that the parties involved would agree on the necessary steps for Iran and the US to return to the JCPOA soon.

The road ahead is still tough, but the JCPOA Joint Commission’s face-to-face meeting has created favourable conditions to put the Iran nuclear deal back on track. The recent meeting in Vienna is assessed to have met double goals, having both seen negotiations directly with Iran on steps back to implementing its nuclear commitments as well as bringing the US and Iran into indirect dialogue in order to relieve stress. The mediators' next mission is to come up with a roadmap that both the US and Iran can accept in order to help revive the historic nuclear deal.