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US, Iranian negotiators heading to Vienna for fresh talks on saving 2015 nuclear accord

Ali Bagheri Kani (IAEA Imagebank/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Chief negotiators for Iran and the United States are heading back to Vienna to resume talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and global powers.

Rob Malley, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, said on August 3 that he was headed to Vienna to resume the negotiations “with expectations in check.”

The United States “is prepared for a good faith attempt to reach a deal,” adding, “It will shortly be clear if Iran is prepared for the same.”

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, is also heading to Vienna. Iran’s Foreign Ministry told state media that the talks would be coordinated by the European Union and that “ideas presented by different sides will be discussed.”

Russia’s envoy to the talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, also tweeted about the return to negotiations.

“Looks like the #ViennaTalks on restoration of the #JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) will resume shortly. The delegations plan to come back to Vienna after a break of almost 5 months. The Russian negotiators stand ready for constructive talks in order to finalise the agreement,” Ulyanov said on Twitter.

The European Union’s lead coordinator for the indirect U.S.-Iranian talks to restore the JCPOA previously said the two sides were close to a deal before talks broke down in March.

Since the unilateral pullout from the deal by the United States under former President Donald Trump, Tehran has gradually broken from compliance with the accord.

Last month, the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said he had proposed a new draft text to revive the accord under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that the United States appreciates Borrell’s efforts to bring the talks to a successful conclusion.

“We have been prepared to close a deal and immediately begin reimplementation based on the outline on the table since March,” the spokesperson said, adding that Borrell’s latest proposal is based on the March text.

In order to reach a deal, the spokesperson said Iran will have to drop demands that are “extraneous” to the JCPOA.

“We hope that will be the case, though at this stage our overall expectations remain low,” the spokesperson said.

On July 25, Iran said monitoring cameras belonging to the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, will not be turned back on until an agreement is reached.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration says it favors a return to the deal, including lifting key sanctions, but has rejected an Iranian demand to reverse the blacklisting of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization.

Months of inaction and increased international isolation of Iranian ally Russia since the Kremlin attacked Ukraine in February have lowered hopes for a new deal that slowly emerged after another lull accompanying the election last year of hard-line Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.