Iran and world powers have made progress in talks to save their 2015 nuclear accord, but “much more hard work” is necessary to rescue the deal, a senior European Union official said on April 20.
EU envoy Enrique Mora made the statement on Twitter on April 20, adding that talks will resume next week.
Discussions in Vienna between Iran, China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, along with the indirect participation of the United States, are being chaired by the European Union.
“Participants took stock of progress made in the ongoing discussions in Vienna regarding specific measures needed in terms of sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation for the possible return of the U.S. to the JCPOA and its full and effective implementation,” the EU said in a statement, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The joint commission overseeing the talks decided to create a third expert group “to start looking into the possible sequencing of respective measures,” the statement added.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s envoy to the talks, said on Twitter that the group would seek “practical steps leading to full restoration of the Iranian nuclear deal.”
Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, said on April 20 that while the talks were moving forward, Tehran would stop the negotiations if faced with “unreasonable demands,” time wasting, or irrational bargaining, according to Iranian state media.
The talks are aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear accord abandoned by the United States in 2018.
The EU has been carrying out shuttle diplomacy with U.S. negotiators located in a nearby hotel because Tehran has refused face-to-face talks with Washington.
The EU statement on April 20 reiterated the participants’ resolve to pursue their joint diplomatic effort and the “continued separate contacts of the coordinator with all participants and the United States.”
The five world powers and Iran remain parties to the original 2015 accord, which offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for limits on the country’s nuclear program. However, since the U.S. withdrew from the deal Iran has consistently breached restrictions imposed under the deal.
Iran has said it will not return to strict observance of the 2015 agreement unless all sanctions reimposed or added by former President Donald Trump are rescinded first.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has said it is ready to remove “all sanctions that are inconsistent” with the deal, though it has not spelled out which measures it means.
Separately, the Iranian government said on April 20 that it had launched enrichment of uranium to 60 percent fissile purity in order to show its technical capacity after a sabotage attack at a nuclear plant that Tehran has blamed on Israel. But the escalation of enrichment can be quickly reversible if Washington drops sanctions, the government said.
Biden has called Iran’s decision to increase uranium enrichment unhelpful but has said the United States is “pleased” that Iran is still participating in indirect talks.