- The 8th and supposedly final round of Iranian nuclear deal talks continued on Tuesday, March 1, in Vienna, as several key issues remain unsolved.
- Upon the conclusion of Monday’s meetings between Iranian chief negotiator Ali Bagheri-Kani and the P4+1 yesterday, officials from sides involved in the talks publicly noted the increasing urgency to wrap up negotiations:
- “It is now or never. If they cannot reach a deal this week, the talks will collapse forever,” said an Iranian diplomat in Tehran.
- Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov: “completion [of talks] will fall on the beginning of March, very soon.”
- Ulyanov tweeted photos of the Monday evening meeting, saying, “Tremendous progress has been made since April 2021, when the talks started. But there is a rule: nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” He also tweeted about his meeting with Bagheri-Kani saying that “intensive work is ahead of us to wrap up the negotiations on restoration of the JCPOA”.
- “We’ve been virtually at last moment & I could say we’ve almost seen the light at the end of the tunnel,” China’s negotiator Wang Qun said.
- While some reports noted Monday that Iranian negotiators had returned to Vienna with more demands, potentially complicating and extending the negotiations even further, others suggested that though Iran was doubling down on closing the IAEA nuclear probe, they were actually more flexible on other issues.
- While U.S. officials continue to suggest they would be willing to walk away from the negotiations unless a deal is reached very soon, Iran doesn’t appear convinced that their U.S. counterparts would actually do so and have made their own threats to leave Vienna without reaching a deal.
- U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters “we are prepared to walk away if Iran displays an intransigence to making progress.”
- Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted, “US has already ‘walked away’ from JCPOA. We must make sure it won’t happen again. Everyone has its own plan B, though US’ has proven hollow. Blusters & bluffs have/will not work. Decisions do. A deal is at hand, if [White House] makes its mind. Iran is willing, but will not wait forever.”
- Iranian news has reported the chances of a deal being reached in Vienna as 50/50, adding that over 98 percent of the prepared draft has been jointly written and the deal “will be formed as a Joint Commission decision w 3 annexes: Sanctions removal, Nuclear steps, re-implementation.”
- Iranian spokesperson Khatibzadeh reportedly said that “in case of a deal, JCPOA parameters both on sanctions and Iran’s nuclear commitments would be observed, so the quality and quantity of enrichment will go back to what was stipulated in the JCPOA.”
- According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, sunset clauses from the original JCPOA – some of which begin to expire as soon as next year – were not moved further into the future, including provisions allowing Iran to expand work on advanced centrifuges in 2024.
- Several outstanding issues remain between the two sides:
- Iran is still demanding U.S. sanctions relief beyond what JCPOA requires – including lifting the foreign terrorism designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC).
- Iran is demanding the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) shut down a separate inquiry into suspected undeclared Iranian efforts to build a nuclear weapon.
- France, Britain, Germany and the United States reportedly do not accept Iran’s demands on this score, given that the IAEA’s inquiry pertains to Tehran’s legally-binding safeguards agreements as a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), not its JCPOA obligations.
- U.K. chief negotiator Stephanie Al-Qaq wrote, “With our partners, the E3 fully supports the independence of the IAEA…. Safeguards are a fundamental part of the non-proliferation system and are separate to the JCPOA. We will always reject any attempt to compromise IAEA independence.”
- One senior Western source said, “Iran is isolated on this.”
- Iran has continued to stand with Russia amid the latter’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, as Ayatollah Khamenei gave a speech Tuesday morning blaming the United States and NATO.
- “The US dragged Ukraine to where it is now. By interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs, creating color revolutions, and toppling one government and putting another in power, the US dragged Ukraine into this situation,” Khamenei said.