November 28, 2022

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US, EU and Iranian envoys head to Vienna for surprise nuclear talks

US, EU and Iranian envoys head to Vienna for surprise nuclear talks

Negotiators from the United States, EU and Iran are dispatching envoys to Vienna for a surprise summit aimed at reviving the defunct 2015 nuclear accord, with U.S. special envoy for Iran Rob Malley saying he was hoping for a “good faith attempt” to find a deal. Russia’s chief negotiator said his country’s representatives also “stand ready for constructive talks.”

Iran, the United States and the European Union said Wednesday they would send representatives to Vienna amid what appears to be a last-ditch effort at reviving talks over Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

It wasn’t immediately clear if other parties to the landmark accord would attend the surprise summit, nor if there had been any progress after a months-long stalemate and recent fruitless round of indirect talks between Iran and the U.S. in Doha.

The European Union official who chairs the talks, Enrique Mora, said the negotiations would focus on the most recent draft to restore the agreement, while Tehran said it was dispatching nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani to the Austrian capital.

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Rob Malley wrote on Twitter that he was preparing to travel to Vienna for talks. He cautioned that American “expectations are in check” ahead of the negotiations.

“The United States welcomes EU efforts and is prepared for a good faith attempt to reach a deal. It will shortly be clear if Iran is prepared for the same,” Malley added.

Russia’s chief representative at the talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, also wrote on Twitter that negotiators from Russia, a key signatory of the nuclear deal, “stand ready for constructive talks in order to finalize the agreement.”

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The prospects for the deal’s restoration have darkened in the past few months with major sticking points remaining, including Tehran’s demand that Washington provide guarantees that it won’t again quit the pact and that it lift terrorism sanctions on Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

The abruptly called meeting in Vienna comes after EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has repeatedly pushed to break the deadlock and salvage the deal in past weeks. He recently wrote in The Financial Times that “the space for additional significant compromises has been exhausted.”

Former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 deal, which lifted most international sanctions on Tehran in exchange for tight restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. Since then, Iran has massively expanded its nuclear work and now has enough highly enriched uranium to fuel one nuclear weapon, according to nonproliferation experts.

However, Iran still would need to design a bomb and a delivery system for it, likely a months-long project. Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, though U.N. experts and Western intelligence agencies say Iran had an organized military nuclear program through 2003.