Experts say chances of resuming Vienna talks undermined but hope remains

A new resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency has reduced the chances of restarting the Vienna talks on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, yet hope remains, analysts say.

“We believe negotiations and diplomacy are the best ways to reach the final point of the agreement,” Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Iran’s foreign minister, said on Tuesday at a joint news conference with his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Teheran.

Iran recently removed 27 monitoring cameras installed by the IAEA at its nuclear facilities as part of the 2015 deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, which the United States abandoned in 2018 during the administration of then president Donald Trump.

Teheran’s move came after the IAEA passed a resolution drafted by the US, France, the United Kingdom and Germany on June 8 that criticized Iran for what they called its failure to respond to the agency’s questions concerning “undeclared” nuclear sites.

About 260 members of Iran’s Parliament condemned the resolution as a politically motivated action resulting from excessive demands by some Western states.

In a phone conversation with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday night, Amir Abdollahian called the resolution “hasty and politically motivated”.

Rafael Grossi, director-general of the IAEA, later said the situation could deal “a fatal blow” to the Vienna talks, though he added that more than 40 surveillance cameras would remain in operation in Iran.

Arhama Siddiqa, a Middle East expert and research fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, Pakistan, said that even though Guterres stated the IAEA resolution was nothing more than a recommendation and that the nuclear deal needs to be revived, the resolution will serve only to frustrate Iran further since there was “no concrete basis” for passing it.

“Because, as evidenced by the December 2021 IAEA-Iran agreement for replacing surveillance cameras at the Karaj facility and even the fact that the Vienna talks are taking place, Iran has been cooperating with the IAEA,” said Siddiqa.

In December, Iran and the IAEA reached a deal on the installation of surveillance cameras at Iran’s Karaj centrifuge component manufacturing workshop. The IAEA hailed it as important progress for the agency’s verification and monitoring activities in Iran.

Amir Abdollahian said that before the IAEA’s move, Teheran had put forward an initiative that the US had accepted, yet Washington had nonetheless decided to submit the resolution censuring Iran.

Contacts to continue

However, the Islamic Republic would not abandon negotiations, he said, adding that “contacts in the diplomatic fields will continue “through the European Union.

Iran “will not distance itself from… diplomacy and negotiations to reach a good, strong and lasting agreement,” Amir Abdollahian said.

While some experts are less hopeful about the resumption of the Vienna talks, others do not consider the IAEA resolution a hindrance to the continuation of the negotiations. They believe that the resolution is not a punitive note.

Ghanem Rafeh, a researcher at the Emirates Policy Center, a think tank in Abu Dhabi, said it can be argued that the US, under the former Trump administration, “drew first blood by withdrawing from the JCPOA”.

Manjari Singh, an associate fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi, said the Western powers’ consensus on criticizing Iran for its lack of progress will further jeopardize revisions to an action plan.

Since April last year, eight rounds of talks have been held in Vienna, but they have stalled since mid-March due to major differences between Iran and the US.

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