Iran inflexible on IAEA probe as EU tables ‘final’ text to revive nuclear deal

The only changes after four days of talks in Vienna to a draft Borrell circulated on July 21 were the resolution of some technical questions, diplomatic sources said of the final text.

Iran's Chief Nuclear Negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani leaves the Palais Coburg, the venue where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, August 4,2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/LISA LEUTNER)
Iran's Chief Nuclear Negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani leaves the Palais Coburg, the venue where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, August 4,2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/LISA LEUTNER)

The European Union has put forward a “final” text to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a senior EU official told reporters on Monday.

The Foreign Ministry in Tehran, however, said Iran was not yet ready to discuss finalizing the deal, according to Iranian state media.

“Given the continuation of discussions on some remaining important issues, we’re not yet at a stage to finalize the text. Iran has presented its constructive views to other party so as to move forward & the result is up to their political decision.”

 Iranian Foreign Ministry official

Indirect negotiations between Iran and the US to save the 2015 pact resumed in Vienna on Thursday, with the talks’ coordinator, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, writing in advance of the new round of talks that there would not be “additional significant compromises” anymore.

“Negotiators used these days of discussions and proximity talks between the US and Iran to fine-tune and address – with technical adjustments – a handful of issues remaining in the text that I have put on the table last July 21,” he tweeted on Monday. “What can be negotiated has been negotiated, and it’s now in a final text. However, behind every technical issue and every paragraph lies a political decision that needs to be taken in the capitals. If these answers are positive, then we can sign this deal.”

Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), addresses a news conference in Vienna, Austria August 8, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/LEONHARD FOEGER)Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), addresses a news conference in Vienna, Austria August 8, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/LEONHARD FOEGER)

Among the technical questions were restoring cameras meant to monitor Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran removed in protest in June, and a small amount of uranium enriched to 60% purity, which cannot be shipped out of Iran as stipulated by the deal.

“The participants in the Vienna Talks now need to decide if the draft is acceptable for them,” tweeted Russia’s lead negotiator, Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov. “In case of no objection, the nuclear deal will be restored.”

However, an Iranian Foreign Ministry official told state media outlet IRNA that “given the continuation of discussions on some remaining important issues, we’re not yet at a stage to finalize the text. Iran has presented its constructive views to other [parties] so as to move forward, and the result is up to their political decision.”

The Islamic Republic’s nuclear negotiators planned to return to Tehran as the latest round of talks came to a close, according to IRNA.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said the nuclear pact depended on Washington’s flexibility.

Iran's non-JCPOA demands

Tehran, however, continued to make demands that were external to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the 2015 deal is known. Iran has insisted since February that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be removed from the US State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. It has reportedly dropped that, agreeing to negotiate it separately with the US.

However, Iran continued to demand that the International Atomic Energy Agency drop its probes into undeclared nuclear sites.

The IAEA has said Iran failed to provide credible responses to its questions about the origins of the uranium particles. The West suspects the particles are proof that Iran had a nuclear weapons program.

“The Iranian regime seems to prefer to protect some individuals involved in clandestine activities 20 years ago instead of freeing its economy and opening up the future for its people,” a European diplomat told Politico.

The JCPOA lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for limiting – but not eliminating – its nuclear program. Those restrictions would be lifted over time, in what is known as sunset clauses, through 2030, with most gone by 2025.

Israel opposes the Iran deal because it does not permanently stop the Islamic Republic from attaining a nuclear weapon, nor does it address Iran’s malign actions in the region. Sources in Jerusalem were unimpressed by the claims of progress in Vienna, saying the EU had made final offers in the past that Iran did not accept, and nothing has changed over the last four days.

The US left the JCPOA in 2018, with president Donald Trump calling it weak and ineffective and opting to sanction Iran instead. The US under President Joe Biden entered indirect talks to revive the deal early last year.

However, Washington was skeptical that the latest round of talks in Vienna would yield a return to the JCPOA.

The State Department said last week that the US has “been prepared to close a deal and immediately begin reimplementation based on the outline on the table since March. In order to reach a deal, Iran will have to drop demands that are extraneous to the JCPOA. We hope that will be the case, though at this stage our overall expectations remain low.”