Talks in Vienna between Iran and the remaining parties of the 2015 nuclear deal were held on Tuesday. US officials were also in the city and participated indirectly through intermediaries.
The two sides agreed to establish working groups of experts who will figure out how the US can return to the JCPOA. In-person talks between Iran and the JCPOA participants — Russia, China, Germany, the UK, and France — will be held again on Friday to discuss what the working groups come up with.
Two working groups will be meeting this week. One will focus on determining what sanctions the US needs to lift. The other will discuss the steps Iran needs to take to reduce the activity of its civilian nuclear program to comply with the limits set by the JCPOA.
“This is going to involve discussions about identifying the steps that the US has to take and identifying the steps that Iran is going to have to take,” said Robert Malley, President Biden’s special envoy to Iran.
Other parties that participated in Tuesday’s talks seem happy with the result. Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s chief negotiator, described the talks as “constructive.”
Enrique Mora, the EU’s chief coordinator who led the talks, echoed Araqchi’s comment. “Constructive Joint Commission meeting,” Mora wrote on Twitter. “There’s unity and ambition for a joint diplomatic process with two expert groups on nuclear implementation and sanctions lifting. As Coordinator I will intensify separate contacts here in Vienna with all relevant parties, including US.”
Russia’s representative who attended the talks said they got off to a “successful” start, although he gave no indication on what a timeline for a revival of the deal looks like. “How long? Nobody knows. The most important thing after today’s meeting of the Joint Commission is that practical work towards achieving this goal has started,” Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s envoy in Vienna, wrote on Twitter.
While the progress appears to be positive, the question now is if the Biden administration will accept a return to the original agreement in the face of domestic pressure not to, or if it will make unreasonable demands and waste the opportunity Tehran has presented.