Indirect negotiations between the US and Iran to revive the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, resumed in Vienna on Monday.
The talks resumed after being stalled since June, around the time Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was elected. The new rounds of negotiations are being brokered by the EU and are being held in the same format as the previous ones.
Officials representing Iran and the remaining JCPOA signatories — China, Russia, Germany, the UK, and France — met at the Palais Coburg, a hotel where the agreement was signed in 2015. The US delegation, led by Biden’s special envoy for Iran Robert Malley, was at a nearby hotel and was briefed by EU officials and diplomats from the other countries.
After Monday’s meetings concluded, EU Enrique Mora was optimistic and said Iran’s new delegation made it clear that it was to engage in “serious work” to revive the JCPOA. “I feel positive that we can be doing important things for the next weeks,” he said.
Mora also recognized that US sanctions on Iran have a devastating impact on the civilian population. “There is a sense of urgency in putting an end to the suffering of the Iranian people,” he said, referring to the sanctions.
Mora said the Iranian delegation agreed to pick up where the last round of negotiations left off in June. “They have accepted that the work done over the first six rounds is a good basis to build our work ahead,” he said.
During the first six rounds that lasted from April to June, the Biden administration refused to lift all Trump-era sanctions. The US and Iran eventually agreed to a deal that would lift most major sanctions, but the two sides remained far apart on key issues.
One of the main issues was over Iran’s concern that the US would leave the JCPOA again. A report from Responsible Statecraft revealed that President Biden refused to guarantee he would stay in the deal during the remainder of his term in office.
Ahead of Monday’s talks, Iran reiterated that it wants all Trump-era sanctions lifted and a guarantee that the US wouldn’t leave the deal again. “The United States still fails to properly understand the fact that there is no way to return to the deal without verifiable and effective lifting of all sanctions imposed on the Iranian nation after the US departure,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said.
The Biden administration has been clear that it does not want to lift all Trump-era sanctions and even imposed new sanctions in the weeks leading up to the new talks. Despite the fact that the two sides appear to be so far apart, Iran’s top negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, told reporters he was “optimistic” after Monday’s meeting concluded.