China breaks silence as talks drag on and Iran deflects

China’s ambassador to the UN in Vienna said that the negotiators “all agree that we have reached the concluding stage."

CHINESE AMBASSADOR to the United Nations, Wang Qun, waits for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, last month. (photo credit: REUTERS)
CHINESE AMBASSADOR to the United Nations, Wang Qun, waits for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, last month.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

China encouraged Iran to respond to an American proposal, in a rare statement by the Chinese representative to the nuclear talks in Vienna.

Wang Qun, China’s ambassador to the UN in Vienna, said on Saturday that the negotiators “all agree that we have reached the concluding stage, especially I think after our Iranian colleagues have come up with their final package.”

That statement was made a week after the US submitted their proposal for a return to the 2015 nuclear deal 2015 nuclear deal to the other world powers in the negotiations – in which the Iranian team refuses to sit with American negotiators

Wang broke his negotiating team’s relative silence compared to the delegations on Thursday, saying that he hoped that Iran will “formally come up with its written feedbacks on the proposed package for discussion by all parties,” Chinese media outlet CGTN reported.

In the ensuing days, Iranian media and officials repeatedly blamed the Americans for the talks dragging on, despite that the other countries are waiting for a proposal from Tehran.

DELEGATES WAIT for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna, Austria, last month. (credit: EU DELEGATION IN VIENNA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)DELEGATES WAIT for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna, Austria, last month. (credit: EU DELEGATION IN VIENNA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Iran also delayed the talks by five months last year, walking away from the table in Vienna ahead of its presidential election in June and refusing to return until the end of November.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Friday that he is not pinning his hopes on the nuclear talks.

“We put our hopes on the east, west, north, south of our country and never have any hope in Vienna and New York,” Raisi said in a televised address marking the anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

A source on the Iran negotiating team claimed that Iran was “pioneering in putting forward new ideas and proposals” and that “the US finally needs to make a decision and end dragging its feet,” Iranian journalist Abas Aslani reported on Saturday.

The Islamic Republic News Agency claimed on Saturday that “an informed source in Vienna said that China and Russia along with the European Union have complained about the United States’ bewilderment and incapability to take [a] political decision on the result of negotiations.”

Nour News called the Biden administration “powerless to negotiate and cannot be flexible in negotiations.”

Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani tweeted last Wednesday – when the US had tabled a proposal and Iran had not – that “there is no coherence in the [US government] to make political decisions in the direction of advancement in the Vienna Talks.”

On Saturday, Shamkhani said that “maintaining and strengthening Iran’s peaceful nuclear capabilities and defense capabilities, [and] regional security-making policies of the Islamic Republic” are non-negotiable.

The US and Iran have been engaged in indirect negotiations since April 2021 to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which restricted Iran’s enrichment and stockpiling of uranium until 2030, in exchange for the gradual lifting of sanctions.

The US left the deal in 2018, citing evidence that Iran hid details of its nuclear program and of malign Iranian behavior in the Middle East, including proxy warfare and its ballistic missile program.

Iran has since enriched uranium to 60%, higher than any country that does not have nuclear weapons; weapons-grade is 90% enriched. The Islamic Republic launched a new class of advanced centrifuges days after the talks resumed late last year.

Since then, the US and the E3 – France, Germany and the UK – have warned that there are only weeks left to restore the JCPOA’s nonproliferation benefits and have lamented the slow pace of talks.

Meanwhile, Iran and Russia began working together last week to evade sanctions.

The countries are working together “to develop a mechanism to protect trade and financial exchanges from the threat of sanctions,” Iran’s Mehr News quoted a Russian official as saying. “The Russian Foreign Ministry has also stressed in a statement that Moscow does not take any restrictions into account in developing technical and military cooperation with Tehran.”