A new round of talks to try to salvage the Iran nuclear deal will convene in Vienna this week, although the Biden administration has low expectations for reaching a breakthrough after more than a year of negotiations.
Top European Union official Enrique Mora announced on Twitter Wednesday that he was heading to the Austrian capital to discuss returning to full implementation of the nuclear agreement on the basis of a proposal put forward by top EU diplomat Josep Borrell in recent weeks.
Rob Malley, the US special envoy for Iran, said Wednesday that he was preparing to travel to Vienna for discussions based on that proposal.
“Our expectations are in check, but the United States welcomes EU efforts and is prepared for a good faith attempt to reach a deal. It will shortly be clear if Iran is prepared for the same,” he wrote on Twitter.
A senior Biden administration official emphasized that they are not overly hopeful that the next round meetings will produce a breakthrough in the long-stalled efforts to revive the deal. The last round of indirect talks between Washington and Tehran, hosted in Doha in late June ended without any progress.
A State Department spokesperson said they appreciated Borrell’s efforts, and noted the US has “been prepared to close a deal and immediately begin reimplementation based on the outline on the table since March.”
“In order to reach a deal, Iran will have to drop demands that are extraneous to the JCPOA,” the spokesperson said. “We hope that will be the case, though at this stage our overall expectations remain low.”
They said they “positively responded” to Borrell’s invitation to gather in Vienna this week because “we believe it is important to support his efforts.”
Tehran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani, who is leading the Iranian delegation to Vienna for the talks, said Wednesday “the Onus is on those who breached the deal & have failed to distance from ominous legacy.”
“The US must seize the opportunity offered by the JCPOA partners’ generosity; ball is in their court to show maturity & act responsibly,” he wrote on Twitter.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani “emphasized the determination of Iran to reach a strong agreement that guarantees the rights and interests of the Iranian nation,” a statement said.
The United States withdrew from the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in 2018 under former President Donald Trump. In the wake of the US withdrawal, Iran has increasingly violated the agreements it made under the deal and expanded its nuclear program.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken backed the proposal from the EU, saying that the US is “prepared to move forward on the basis of what’s been agreed,” but it is unclear if Iran is prepared to do the same.
Borrell described the proposal as “the best possible deal that (he), as facilitator of the negotiations, see as feasible,” noting that “after 15 months of intense, constructive negotiations and countless interactions with the JCPOA participants and the US, the space for additional significant compromises to reach an agreement has been exhausted.”
“It is not a perfect agreement, but it addresses all essential elements and includes hard-won compromises by all sides,” Borrell wrote in a post Saturday. “Decisions need to be taken now to seize this unique opportunity to succeed, and to free up the great potential of a fully implemented deal. I see no other comprehensive or effective alternative within reach.”
During a press availability at the United Nations on Monday, Blinken noted that “the EU has put forward a best proposal based on many, many months of discussions, negotiations, conversations.”
“It’s very consistent with something that they put forward in March that we’ve we agreed to, that we would pursue it in March,” Blinken said. “But it remains to be seen whether Iran is willing and able to move forward.”
“We continue to believe, as I said this morning, that that would be the best path forward – a return to compliance off both sides to the JCPOA, to make sure that we are putting Iran’s nuclear program back in a box and averting any kind of crisis,” he said.