Relaunching the deal with Iran: Vienna talks, a glimmer of hope on the horizon

Hassan Rohani President of Iran
Image Credit: Hosseinronaghi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Iran Vienna talks :  face-to-face held in Vienna on April 6, 2021 between Iran and signatories of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) also known as Iran nuclear deal has predictably drawn attention.

Biden administration reiterated need for diplomacy and worked closely with E3 countries (UK, Germany and France) in an effort to find common ground so that US is able to join JCPOA. While there has been no success so far, there is renewed optimism that diplomacy will pave way for a reduction in tensions, and possibly a return of the United States. at JCPOA. It’s important to understand some of the important developments aside from Tuesday’s in the context of the Iran nuclear deal.

Virtual on Friday

On Friday April 2, 2021 days before the in-person , a virtual was held between Iran and other important stakeholders. The was chaired by Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora of the European External Action Service (EEAS).

While commenting on the meeting, SEAE in a statement, he said: “In accordance with the joint ministerial declaration of December 21, the participants recognized the prospect of a full return of the United States to the JCPOA, and underlined their readiness to positively address this issue in an effort spouse. ”

All participants were positive about the overall outcome of the meeting, and this sent a clear message, that there is a will among all stakeholders to break the US-Iran impasse (another meeting is also scheduled for Friday).

Vienna meeting schedule and how the US left Iran with minimal options

The timing of the Vienna meeting and the general urgency of reducing tensions with Iran are also important, as a few days earlier, on March 27, 2021, a 25-year agreement called “strategic Cooperation pactHas been signed between and Iran and many believe it will not only strengthen bilateral economic relations, but also the strategic ties between Beijing and Tehran.

A number of analysts have blamed the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, and its “ maximum pressure ” approach to Iran, for strengthening Tehran-Beijing relations. Even during the pandemic, the Trump administration refused to waive sanctions. The sanctions, then the pandemic had negative consequences on the economy which contracted by 4.99% in 2020 and experienced inflation, while its currency depreciated steadily.

A 25-year deal was discussed during Xi Jinping’s visit to Iran in 2016, but it was in 2019 when Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited that details of the deal were supposed to have been developed. To be fair to the Biden administration, days after signing the Iran- deal, it was quick to show more urgency and more flexibility towards Iran. . He expressed his willingness to remove sanctions in certain areas, although this was categorically refused by Iran. The current administration has also extended an exemption to Iraq for importing electricity from Iran.

presidential election

The recent attempts by E3 countries and the United States to address this issue are also important in the context of Iran’s presidential elections to be held in June. Rouhani’s current administration has limited time and leeway to negotiate with the United States. In fact, the Biden administration has been criticized by Democrats for its policies and many believe it lacks imagination. One example is Democrat MP Ro Khanna. Speaking at a virtual event on March 31 Khanna mentionned: “Let’s just speak clearly; it was a disappointing start to Iranian policy on the part of the administration. They should have tried to make this deal already. “

Iranian hardliners have suggested there should be no rush to return to full compliance, while some have said they should impose conditions such as; the release of billions of dollars of Iranian money frozen abroad, the authorization to export more than 2 million barrels of oil per day.

Russia and want JCPOA to relaunch

Interestingly, as US relations with Russia and deteriorate, both countries have spoken out in favor of removing sanctions. In fact, there are many in Beijing who understand that economic ties between Beijing and Tehran cannot reach their full potential until sanctions are in place.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during his visit to Iran, spoke of the Biden administration’s desire to revert to the Iran nuclear deal and hailed it. While commenting on Tuesday’s meeting in Vienna, Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov called it successful and important. China also reaffirmed the need to remove what it has dubbed ‘unlawful sanctions against Iran.

Neither side can afford to take a maximalist position. Common ground must be found. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi has stated unequivocally that Iran will agree to nothing less than the US withdrawal of Iranian sanctions before returning to full compliance. One possible way forward could be for the United States to provide specific relaxations to Iran that could benefit its economy, and for Iran to show more flexibility and address US concerns. United. The Biden administration and the Rouhani administration face a daunting task, but pragmatism and flexibility on both sides would help.

The opinions and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

Tridivesh Singh Maini

New Delhi-based Policy Analyst associated with OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India. One of his areas of interest is the India-Pakistan-China triangle.

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