High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell announced on Friday that Iran and world powers would suspend talks to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement in the Austrian capital, Vienna. According to Borrell, the talks have been suspended due to “external factors” after Russian demands threatened to ruin the talks at the last minute.
“A pause in Vienna talks is needed due to external factors,” tweeted Borrell, without specifying details.
He added: “As coordinator, I will, with my team, continue to be in touch with all JCPOA participants and the US to overcome the current situation and to close the agreement.”
Consequently, Head of the Iranian delegation to the nuclear talks Ali Bagheri Kani left Vienna, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
As reported by IRNA, in response to Borrell, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted: “The successful conclusion of talks will be the main focus for all. No external factor will affect our joint will to go forward with a collective agreement.”
Khatibzadeh added: “The pause in Vienna talks could be a momentum for resolving any remaining issues and a final return.”
The parties to the talks had expected to reach an agreement on 6 March that would bring Iran back into compliance with the restrictions imposed on its rapidly developing nuclear activities and return the US to the agreement.
However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov unexpectedly demanded blanket guarantees that Russia’s trade with Iran would not be affected by sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. This is a demand that Western powers say is unacceptable and that Washington has insisted on rejecting.
However, Russia’s envoy to the talks Mikhail Ulyanov dismissed suggestions that Moscow was to blame for the stalled negotiations. “The conclusion of the deal does not depend on Russia only. There are other actors who need additional time and who have additional concerns, and they are being discussed,” indicated Ulyanov after meeting European Union (EU) coordinator Enrique Mora.
While Ulyanov hoped the talks would end as soon as possible, he did not give a timeline for their resumption.
It is worth noting that White House spokesperson Jen Psaki announced on Thursday that it is possible that an agreement could be reached on the Iranian nuclear programme in the coming days.
The negotiations sponsored by the EU aim for the US to return to the agreement that the administration of former US President Donald Trump withdrew from in May 2018. It also re-imposed severe sanctions on Iran to push it to abide by its international commitments related to the nuclear programme.
The 2015 agreement Iran signed by the US, France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany imposed restrictions on Tehran’s programme to prevent nuclear weapons production in exchange for lifting international sanctions.