Senior European diplomats have voiced “disappointment and concern” at the results of five days of negotiations in Vienna on reviving a landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The latest round of talks between Iran and the remaining parties to the nuclear agreement — Britain, France, and Germany (known as the E3), China, and Russia — began on November 29 after a five-month hiatus, with the United States participating indirectly.
Diplomats were aiming to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which began unravelling in 2018 when former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and reimposed sanctions, prompting Iran to exceed limits on its nuclear program the following year.
Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, said the United States was ready to rejoin the JCPOA provided that Iran resumes observing the deal’s conditions.
The diplomats from the E3 issued a statement that described their “disappointment and concern after thoroughly and carefully analyzing Iranian proposed changes to the text negotiated during the previous six rounds,” which started in April and were interrupted in June, when Iran elected a hard-line president.
“Major changes (have been) demanded (by Iran),” the officials said in a statement on December 3, adding that some were incompatible with the 2015 deal.
“Tehran is walking back almost all of the difficult compromises crafted after many months of hard work,” they added.
The E3 diplomats went on to say it was “unclear how these new gaps can be closed in a realistic timeframe.”
The diplomats said the delegations needed to “return to capitals to assess the situation and seek instructions, before reconvening next week to see whether gaps can be closed or not”.
“Our governments remain fully committed to a diplomatic way forward. But time is running out,” they said.
The European Union official chairing the meeting, Enrique Mora, said on December 3 that the talks will be resumed next week.
“We have identified the challenges ahead. Now it is time to consult with capitals,” EU diplomat Enrique Mora told reporters. “We will be resuming here in Vienna next week.”
Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency said the talks would “most likely” resume on December 6, but French President Emmanuel Macron warned that there could be a longer break in the talks.
On December 2, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Iran that there was still time to return to compliance with its nuclear deal with world powers despite its latest rhetoric.
“I have to tell you, recent moves, recent rhetoric, don’t give us a lot of cause for optimism,” Blinken said.
“But even though the hour is getting very late, it is not too late for Iran to reverse course,” he added.