According to envoys from France and Britain, indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are closed being clinched.
“We are close. E3 negotiators leaving Vienna briefly to update Ministers on state of play. Ready to return soon,” tweeted Stephanie Al-Qaq referring to the chief British, French and German diplomats involved in the talks.
“Hoping to return quickly to reach a conclusion because we are very, very close to an agreement,” tweeted French envoy, Philippe Errera.
Their departure raised the possibility that Washington and Tehran, who have so far held indirect talks since they had refused to meet face to face, might potentially be preparing to sit together, although diplomats have said there were no such plans.
“As far as I know, the Iranians are not ready for direct talks,” said Russian envoy Mikhail Ulyanov. “We will have a deal maybe in the middle of next week. We are talking about the last efforts before crossing the finish line.”
Negotiations have been running for 11 months to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which limited Iran’s nuclear program and made it harder to Tehran to obtain fissile material for an atom bomb in return for relief from economic sanctions.
World powers, including Russia, and China have worked closely for more than a year to revive the accord. The war in Ukraine has created a sense of urgency to conclude the talks before cooperation with Moscow becomes potentially more difficult.
Incidentally, many pieces must fall into place for a deal to happen.
One wildcard is an effort by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to resolve questions about nuclear material that the Vienna-based agency suspects Iran failed to declare.
The IAEA has found particles of processed uranium at three apparently old sites that Iran never declared and has repeatedly said Tehran has not provided satisfactory answers.
On Saturday, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi arrived in Tehran in the hopes of starting a process that would lead to the end of the investigation and potentially clearing a way for the wider deal, said diplomats.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has also hinted that a nuclear deal may be close but warned that the West’s “haste” to reach one “cannot prevent the observance of Iran’s red lines.”
“We are ready to finalise a good and immediate agreement,” states a report from an Iranian media quoting Amirabdollahian as telling the EU’s top diplomat Joseph Borrell by telephone.
“Most of Iran’s requests have been considered in the upcoming agreement.”