The Seventh Round of Nuclear Negotiations Concluded
The nuclear negotiations, which started on April 6 in Vienna, the capital of Austria, for the "full and effective implementation" of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), were suspended due to the presidential elections held in Iran in June 2021. After this five-month hiatus after the sixth round, which ended on June 20, the seventh round started on Monday, November 29. Ali Bagheri Kani, the new head of the Iranian nuclear negotiation team, and his new team met with representatives of the European Union and P4+1 (France, UK, Russia, China and Germany) in Vienna.
Ali Bagheri Kani announced on his official Twitter account the date of Iran's return to negotiations on November 3, as follows, “we agreed to start the negotiations aiming at the removal of unlawful and inhumane sanctions on November 29, in Vienna”. The announcement of Iran’s return to the negotiating table created a positive atmosphere for the sake of the future of the JCPOA.
However, this optimistic atmosphere was replaced by negative discourses, with some prominent statements and developments in the seventh round. On the first day of the negotiations, Bagheri Kani stated that "the texts obtained and agreed upon in the previous rounds will be again renegotiated". In this regard, on the fourth day of the nuclear negotiations in Vienna, Iran submitted two drafts proposals to the representatives of other countries regarding Iran's nuclear activities and the lifting of sanctions. According to the draft in question, Iran demands that sufficient and necessary guarantees be given for the lifting of all sanctions imposed during the Trump era. Moreover, the Iranians claim fewer limitations on their nuclear program. In addition, Iran argues that the issue of sanctions and nuclear commitments should be kept separate from each other and that the issue of sanctions should be of top priority at nuclear talks. Speaking to Al Jazeera regarding the drafts, Bagheri said, “Iran’s proposals to the world powers cannot be rejected. They are based on the provisions of the 2015 Deal”.
The US and E3 have made remarks about the drafts Iran has proposed. White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki said at the press conference on the subject, “the new Iranian administration did not come to Vienna with constructive proposals. The first six rounds of negotiations made progress in finding creative compromise solutions to many of the hardest issues. Iran’s approach this week was not, unfortunately, to try to resolve the remaining issues”. In the statement from E3 countries, it was noted, “we are disappointed and worried about the changes suggested by Iran to the texts that had been negotiated during the six rounds of talks in Vienna. Iran breaks with almost all difficult compromises that have been agreed upon during many months of tough negotiations and demands substantial changes to the text".
The seventh round of nuclear talks concluded on Friday, December 3. Diplomats have returned to their capitals for consultations of next steps. Negotiations are expected to continue in the coming weeks. Considering the latest evaluations and statements from the parties, it is very difficult to be optimistic about the future of the negotiations. Especially in the midst of deep distrust between the USA and Iran, the fact that the parties' lack of flexibility in terms of the demands may bring Vienna talks and ultimately the JCPOA to the point of total collapse.