Policy & Regulation

21 Apr 2021

Iran Nuclear Talks Make Progress in Vienna

21 Apr 2021  by   
Diplomats negotiating the revival of the Iran nuclear deal in Vienna today gave the strongest indications to date that Washington and Tehran are ready to set aside maximalist demands and work toward the eventual lifting of US sanctions that have crippled Iran's oil exports.

The joint commission that oversees the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has "decided to create a third expert group to start looking into the possible sequencing of respective measures," said the EU External Action Service's Enrique Mora, who is coordinating the meeting.

The talks to this point have focused on technical discussions in two separate groups, one looking at what Iran needs to do to return to compliance with the agreement and another looking at the US steps. Publicly, Washington and Tehran each has insisted that the other party take the first step to return to full compliance.

In moving on to the next stage of discussing sequencing of actions, the parties are signaling a willingness to reach an agreement.

"Participants reiterated their resolve to further pursue their joint diplomatic effort including in the joint commission and through continued separate contacts of the coordinator with all JCPOA participants and the US," Mora said.

Russian ambassador to the Vienna-based international organizations, Mikhail Ulyanov, said via Twitter the working group will "deal with possible sequencing of practical steps leading to full restoration of the Iranian nuclear deal."

US and Iranian diplomats have been indirectly negotiating for three weeks to identify measures to be taken on Iran's compliance with restrictions on its nuclear program and US sanctions relief. Iran formally remains part of the JCPOA, as do France, Germany, the UK, Russia and China.

The US left the agreement in 2018 under former president Donald Trump, but President Joe Biden's administration is negotiating a potential US return to the deal. US and Iranian diplomats have been negotiating indirectly through the EU and other JCPOA participants.

The latest round of talks concluded today and is expected to resume next week to give the US and Iranian diplomats time to brief their governments.

US sanctions have cut off more than 2mn b/d of Iranian crude exports. Iran's engineers have experience of managing fields under the enforced idleness of sanctions. The country boosted production by 700,000 b/d within a year of signing the JCPOA in 2015, and by another 300,000 b/d a year after that.

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