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Iran, E3 diplomats meet in Oslo to break nuclear deal logjam

March 23, 2023 at 1:43 pm

Iran’s Chief Negotiator for the Nuclear Agreement, Ali Bagheri [Aşkın Kıyağan – Anadolu Agency]

Efforts to resume the stalled talks in Vienna aimed at the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal have gathered momentum again amid geopolitical shifts spurred by the Tehran-Riyadh rapprochement, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Iran’s deputy Foreign Minister and lead nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri, on Wednesday night confirmed reports about his meeting with senior European diplomats in Oslo last week.

In a tweet, Bagheri said he met with political directors of E3 countries (The United Kingdom, Germany and France) and “discussed a range of issues of mutual interest and concern”.

“We spare no opportunity to clarify our views and warn against certain miscalculations. We are determined in advancing our national interests, including through diplomacy,” he wrote.

The US unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018, after which Iran gradually ramped up its nuclear enrichment activities, higher than the limit stipulated in the deal.

Talks to revive the landmark nuclear deal remained stalled since last August, amid key disagreements between Tehran and Washington as well as Iran’s dispute with the UN nuclear watchdog.

The recent countrywide protests in Iran as well as accusations of Tehran supplying drones to Moscow for use in the Ukraine war have complicated efforts to revive the nuclear deal, with both the US and European countries imposing a slew of fresh sanctions on Iran over the two issues.

The meeting between Bagheri and representatives of the three European countries, who are the signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), came as Iran and its estranged Persian Gulf neighbours have been engaged in intense diplomacy to revive or upgrade ties.

Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two regional arch-foes, recently agreed to resume diplomatic ties after seven years, paving the way for Iran’s closer ties with other Arab countries, including the UAE.

Iran’s engagement with IAEA

More importantly, Iran’s engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has also increased in recent weeks following IAEA chief, Rafael Grossi’s visit to Tehran.

During the high-stakes visit, the two sides agreed to resolve all outstanding issues, including the agency’s probe into “traces of uranium” found at three undeclared nuclear sites in Iran.

The issue has been one of the key sticking points in Vienna talks, with the US and its European allies repeatedly urging Tehran to cooperate with the Agency. Iran, however, denies the “accusations”.

Reinstallation of some surveillance cameras and other key monitoring activities also figured in Grossi’s discussions in Tehran, which he later referred to as “very concrete” promises given by Tehran that will be reviewed during the upcoming meeting of Iran-IAEA technical teams.

Bagheri, in his statement, did not divulge details about his meeting with the European diplomats.

Iran’s state news agency, IRNA, had earlier cited sources as saying that the Iranian official met with E3 diplomats in the Norwegian capital in the presence of European Union deputy Foreign Policy chief, Enrique Mora. Mora’s attendance, however, has not been confirmed by other reports.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry, in a tweet, also confirmed that the meeting took place. The meeting, it noted, was to “make our positions very clear in the face of the Iranian escalation in many areas,” adding that there are “still no negotiations” on the nuclear deal.

Norway’s Foreign Ministry said it hosted an “informal meeting” between France, Germany, the UK and Iran “to discuss serious concerns and prevent escalation in a tense situation”.

According to sources, Oslo has also previously hosted a meeting between the officials of Iran and the three European countries to end the stalemate in efforts to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal.

READ: Iran concessions to IAEA largely hinge on future talks – IAEA