Iran nuclear talks to resume amid growing doubts over deal


(Bloomberg) – The United States and Iran will resume talks on November 29 over the relaunch of the 2015 deal that placed limits on Tehran’s nuclear program, after a five-month delay that fueled skepticism about the ability of both parties to resolve disputes over sanctions relief and the permanence of the agreement.

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The talks – in which the United States and Iran do not speak face to face but through European and Russian intermediaries – will resume for a seventh round in Vienna. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator and deputy foreign minister Ali Bagheri Kani said the date deal came after a phone call with Enrique Mora, the European Union envoy who helped arbitrate the talks. The EU and the US confirmed the date in separate statements shortly thereafter.

Participants will continue to discuss “the prospect of a possible return of the United States” to the agreement “and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement by all parties,” said Wednesday the EU in a statement.

Oil markets continued earlier declines after the announcement, with West Texas Intermediate crude falling as much as 4.7%.

“This window of opportunity will not be open forever,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. “We certainly hope that when the Iranian delegation returns to Vienna later this month, it will make him ready to negotiate, it will also make him ready to negotiate quickly and in good faith.”

Wednesday’s announcement marked the first indication that the government of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi – which took office in August and took a tougher line on talks than its predecessor – is ready to test the waters with the States – United on the removal of sanctions and the introduction of Iran’s return of oil to the market. But before sanctions can be relaxed, diplomats will have to overcome major sticking points.

Former President Donald Trump abandoned the multinational deal in 2018. In the years since, the United States has imposed a host of sanctions that have hampered the Iranian economy and reduced its oil sales, while the Iran has acted forcefully to advance its uranium enrichment capability while denying inspectors. access to its entire program.

Although U.S. officials have said substantial progress has been made in the first six rounds of talks on relaunching the deal after President Joe Biden takes office, there is a big blockage: Iran wants the Biden administration to offer some form of guarantee that a future US president will earn. ‘ Don’t back down like Trump did. US officials say they cannot bind future administrations.

Persistent questions

The inability of both sides to resolve this puzzle – along with lingering questions about which sanctions to lift and to what extent Iran will reverse progress on its nuclear program – has raised growing doubt as to the possibility of succeeding. to an agreement.

“I’m not particularly optimistic,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. “It takes a lot more creativity and political will on both sides to make this happen. “

The announcement of the resumption of talks comes after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps says it took control of an oil tanker it claims the United States was trying to seize in an attempt to confiscate cargo of Iranian crude in the Gulf of Oman on Oct. 25, according to Iranian state television. Citing unnamed U.S. officials, The Associated Press said Iran captured a Vietnamese ship.

Dismissing as a “ridiculous claim” Iranian claim that the United States was trying to take control of the tanker, Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby told Pentagon reporters that “the only seizure that was carried out was carried out by Iran ”.

Oil tankers operating in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman have been the frequent target of piecemeal attacks since Trump left the multilateral nuclear deal.

After Trump withdrew from the deal and imposed sanctions, Iran’s oil exports fell 2.5 million barrels per day. But in recent months, the country’s sales have fallen to around 1 million barrels per day, by some estimates, with China accounting for the majority of sales.

Iran has said it can restore oil production to pre-sanctions levels within months, and it is likely that it will find a market that supplies economies recovering from the pandemic and fending off oil shortages. fuel in Europe.

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