Negotiations surrounding America’s potential return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal broke up without an agreement Friday after new Russian demands scrambled the talks.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, tweeted that the halt in negotiations held in Vienna, Austria was due to “external factors” and added that the text of a possible agreement was “essentially ready and on the table.”
Then-President Donald Trump removed the US from the seven-nation agreement in 2018, opting to impose tough sanctions on Iran. Over the past few years, Tehran has dramatically ramped up its uranium enrichment activities, leaving Western officials concerned that it is weeks away from possessing enough enriched material for a nuclear weapon.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hampered efforts to get an agreement across the finish line, as Moscow last week demanded guarantees from Washington that new Western sanctions not prevent Russia from trading with Iran.
“We have asked our American counterparts, who rule the roost here, to provide us with guarantees at least at the level of the secretary of state [that] the current process launched by the United States will by no means affect our right to free and full-fledged trading, economic, investment, military, and technical cooperation with Iran,” said Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on March 5.
The Biden administration, despite promising to turn Russia into a “pariah” over its brutal attack on Ukraine, has still continued to work with the Kremlin to pursue the Iran deal’s resurrection.
During an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” last Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken blasted Lavrov’s demands as “irrelevant” and claimed the Ukraine-related sanctions “have nothing to do with the Iran nuclear deal.”
The UK, France and Germany, which are all parties to the talks, warned on Tuesday that “the window of opportunity is closing,” in a statement urging Russia “not to add extraneous demands” to its position.
On Thursday, Iran also piled on, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei demanding that the US drop its “unreasonable proposals” in a signal that Tehran was digging in. Khamenei added that his country would not forfeit its “defensive power, regional presence, [or] nuclear progress.”
Russia’s top negotiator in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said Friday that it was unclear how long the pause would last and claimed there was not “any impasse,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
“The only thing which I want to tell you … the conclusion of the deal does not depend on Russia only,” he added.
Prior to the break in the talks, there was disagreement in Vienna over US terrorism sanctions targeting Iran.
European diplomats told the New York Times that Iran wanted Washington to lift at least one of the sanctions designations placed on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, which had been in effect since 2019.
According to the Wall Street Journal, even if the IRGC sanctions remain, any deal would result in Washington lifting dozens of terrorism sanctions designations placed on other individuals and groups.