US and Iran face deadline on final draft nuclear accord as talks end

The US and Iran have only weeks to decide whether they want to revive their nuclear deal after EU diplomats presented a final draft accord that could deliver a major expansion of Iranian oil exports to global markets.

EU diplomats said negotiators ended more than 15 months of talks in Vienna on Monday with an agreement that requires the approval of US President Joe Biden and Iranian leader Ebrahim Raisi, Bloomberg reported.

The 2015 nuclear deal granted Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for limits to its nuclear programme. It slowly unraveled after the Trump administration pulled out four years ago.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell will send a message instructing leaders that they now have a few weeks to choose whether or not to re-enter the deal, the officials said.

US special envoy Robert Malley and Iran’s top negotiator are expected to return to their capitals within the next day, the officials said.

A State Department official told The National on Monday that the ball is now in Iran’s court and that Washington was ready to conclude a deal.

“We stand ready to quickly conclude a deal on the basis of the EU’s proposals,” the official said.

“As the EU co-ordinator has made clear, this text is the only possibility basis on which to do so.

“Let’s see if the Iranian actions match their words.”

Tehran’s insistence that International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors resolve their investigation into decades-old nuclear activity remains a sticking point that the talks failed to resolve.

“We worked for four days and today the text is on the table,” a European official told AFP.

“The negotiation is finished, it’s the final text … and it will not be renegotiated.”

Talks involving Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia, and the US indirectly, aimed at reviving an agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program resumed on Thursday in Vienna, months after they had stalled.

“Now the ball is in the court of the capitals and we will see what happens,” the European official said. “No one is staying in Vienna.”

The official said he hoped to see the “quality” text accepted “within weeks”.

Iran said it was examining the text.

“As soon as we received these ideas, we conveyed our initial response and considerations … but naturally, these items require a comprehensive review, and we will convey our additional views and considerations,” state news agency Irna quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying.

On Sunday, Iran demanded the UN nuclear watchdog “completely” resolve questions about nuclear material at undeclared sites.

“That has nothing to do with” the nuclear deal, which is also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the European official said.

The UN agency’s board of governors adopted a resolution in June censuring Iran for failing to adequately explain the previous discovery of traces of enriched uranium at three previously undeclared sites.

“We believe that the agency should completely resolve the remaining safeguard issues from a technical route by distancing itself from irrelevant and unconstructive political issues,” Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, said on Sunday.

EU-led negotiations to revive the JCPOA began in April 2021 before stalling in March.

The 2015 accord gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program to guarantee Tehran could not develop a nuclear weapon — something it has always denied wanting to do.

But the US withdrawal from the deal under president Donald Trump in 2018 and the reimposition of economic sanctions prompted Iran to begin retreating on its own commitments.

Updated: August 08, 2022, 8:29 PM

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