The United States will participate in the first significant progress on the nuclear file after Joe Biden came to power, starting from Tuesday in the Vienna negotiations to try to salvage the international agreement on Iranian nuclear production.
But they will not be at the same Tehran table, and the Europeans will be the ones who act as mediators between the two parties, hoping to achieve tangible results after a two-month waiting period.
“It is an important achievement that shows that the United States, as well as Iran, want to break the deadlock and the expected scheme that the ball is in the other area,” Ali Fayez of the International Crisis Group Conflict Prevention Organization.
The new US president affirmed that he is ready to return to the agreement signed in 2015 in Vienna, which aims to not equip Iran with atomic weapons.
His predecessor, Donald Trump, unilaterally denounced it in 2018 and reimposed and even tightened sanctions on Tehran.
But if these punitive measures that stifle its economy are not withdrawn, Iran does not want to abide by the terms of the agreement, which has failed in recent months.
Since almost no one wants to give the first weight, the idea is to put in place a “framework that defines parallel phases,” Fayez explains.
“Each side can save face and together define a roadmap,” says Suzanne DiMaggio of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
– ‘Bus diplomacy’ –
On Tuesday at 12:30 GMT, there will be a meeting of the Joint Commission attended by all the signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA): Iran, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China and Russia under the auspices of the European Union (EU) represented by the Assistant Secretary-General of the Foreign Action Corps, Enrique Mora.
At the same time, says a European diplomat residing in the Austrian capital, “The expert meetings will be held for 15 days, per month, we do not know.”
On the other hand, there will be the American delegation elsewhere and without any contact with the Islamic Republic, which has ruled out meeting with the United States.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told the agencies on Monday that this formula “does not make things easier, but it is basically not about (…) inventing something new, we are going back to what was there in 2015.”
For Kelsey Davenport, director of non-proliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, “This bus diplomacy is not perfect but the EU is well positioned to break the impasse and coordinate the necessary actions to restore the agreement.”
This expert calls for “the first bold gesture from both sides to instill momentum in the process and demonstrate the political will of each of them.”
– ‘Ants job’ –
Washington could, for example, open “access to foreign financial transactions and facilitate humanitarian aid” – medicines and medical equipment in particular – Davenport says, while Tehran could leave uranium enrichment at around 20%.
But experts warn that the task will not be easy.
“The problem is everything that is irreversible, such as the investigations carried out by Tehran” over the past months, confirms the diplomat consulted.
As for the US administration, will it agree to lift all sanctions, as Iran requested?
On Monday, Tehran reiterated: “Everything” depends “on the ability of the Europeans and the signatories to” remind the United States of their obligations, “as Iranian diplomatic spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh insisted.
On the eve of the discussions, Washington seemed optimistic.
“If we show realism, we can do that,” said US envoy Rob Malley in a televised interview. “We will have to do a standard job to examine the sanctions and see what Iran can do to obtain the advantages that the agreement was supposed to provide,” he added.
Davenport warns that “the choice will be a delicate matter,” noting also “those who want to torpedo the agreement” in both enemy countries.
burx-anb / ybl / af / zm