US diplomat: US prepared to try to quickly conclude Iran deal talks and 'turn the page'
Iran has to decide if committed to same, the US diplomat said. “If not, we will have to choose a different path as well."
On when Iran nuclear talks might resume, a senior American diplomat said more important than timing is that the Iranians “come back with a realistic posture that is consistent with a mutual return to the deal.”
“We are prepared to continue the negotiations . . . and try to conclude quickly in order to turn the page on a period of escalation and a failed maximum pressure campaign,” the US diplomat said.
“Iran is going to have to decide if they are committed to the same. If not, we will have to choose a different path as well.”
“It seems clear that the Iranians are dragging their feet to accumulate more leverage before coming back to the negotiating table,” Crisis Group’s Ali Vaez.
“But they won’t be able to extract a fundamentally better deal through these delay tactics.”
A senior American diplomat said today they are still waiting for official Iranian communication about when they would be ready to resume international talks over a possible restoration of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. But while time is a factor, the diplomat said, it is more important that the Iranians come back with a realistic position that is conducive to a mutual return to the deal.
“We are prepared…to find a way forward so that we remove sanctions inconsistent with the JCPOA and they retract nuclear steps that are inconsistent with the JCPOA,” the senior American diplomat, speaking not for attribution, told me in an interview today (Sept. 1), referring to the formal name of the Iran nuclear pact, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“We are prepared to continue the negotiations in that spirit and try to conclude quickly in order to turn the page on a period of escalation and a failed maximum pressure campaign,” he said.
“Iran is going to have to decide if they are committed to the same,” he said. “If not, we will have to choose a different path as well.”
Iran has been sending unofficial mixed messages about when it might be ready to resume the nuclear talks in recent days. The hesitation may reflect both that the new Ebrahim Raisi administration still has not finalized decisions on its stance and personnel for the talks, as well as a calculation intended to try to dissuade western nations from issuing a possible resolution criticizing Iran for insufficient cooperation with a probe on past nuclear work at an upcoming International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors meeting later this month, said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran program at the International Crisis Group.
“It appears that the Iranians have not made some of the fundamental decisions about their approach to the negotiations, including who is going to lead them--not just personnel, but institutionally,” Vaez told me in an interview.
“I think they are driven by the belief that it is in their interest not to resume the seventh round until after the IAEA board of governors meeting so they can basically hold leverage over the E3 not to issue a resolution to the board out of fear that it derails the resumption of the JCPOA talks,” Vaez said, referring to the three European powers involved in the Iran nuclear talks, Britain, France and Germany. The IAEA board of governors is due to meet Sept. 13-17 in Vienna.
If they would come to the JCPOA talks with a much harder bargain a week before the Board of Governors meeting, it could potentially backfire on them, Vaez assessed Iranian calculations.
Iran sent a message to the European Union coordinator of the talks Enrique Mora late yesterday (Aug. 31) saying that it remains committed to the talks on possibly restoring US and Iranian compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Amwaj.media reported, following media comments by Iran’s new foreign minister saying Iran may need a couple months.
But a European official said the message to Brussels was pretty ambiguous.
“I would not say that there are reassurances, but that this interpretation has been presented as one of the possible options,” the European official, speaking not for attribution, said.
Iran’s new “axis of resistance”-aligned foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, on his first ministerial foreign trip to an international conference in Baghdad, Iraq and then Syria last weekend, and in subsequent Iranian readouts of conversations with diplomatic counterparts and media comments, has emphasized that the Raisi administration seeks for Iran to be recognized as an important nation in the region, views a western role in the region as against Iranian interests, and is looking for the Iran deal negotiations to have “tangible achievements.”
“Negotiation is one of the tools of diplomacy, and we hope that good things will happen in this regard and that the other parties will be present at the negotiating table on the basis of wisdom, not non-constructive messages," Amir-Abdollahian told Iran state television in an interview Aug. 30, according to a Fars news account of the interview.
Regarding when Iran might be ready to get back to talks on reviving the nuclear deal, six rounds of which were held in Vienna before breaking on June 20, Amir-Abdollahian said the new Iranian administration may need time.
"The other side understands that it will take two to three months for the new government to take office and plan for any decision,” Amir-Abdollahian said.
“It seems clear that the Iranians are dragging their feet to accumulate more leverage before coming back to the negotiating table,” Vaez told me. “But they won’t be able to extract a fundamentally better deal through these delay tactics. And they risk bringing down an agreement that remains their own best option compared to all the alternatives.”
Asked how he understood the message, the senior US diplomat said it was unclear and they are still waiting for a formal communication, presumably via Brussels.
“We are still waiting to hear more formally what their intentions are,” the US diplomat said. “We will figure it out when they tell us.”
More important than the date, the diplomat continued, is that Iranians, “if and when they come back,…come back with a realistic posture that is consistent with a mutual return to the deal.”
“If they insist on our taking steps that go beyond our JCPOA obligations, then it means we are negotiating something other than the JCPOA,” the US diplomat said. “That would be a very different kind of negotiation.”