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Expert Groups Set Up, Iran Nuclear Talks To Resume Friday

Iran and world powers concluded their meeting in Vienna Tuesday [April 6] by establishing two expert groups to review United States sanctions and details of Iran’s nuclear program before resuming on Friday.

Leading the Iranian team, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told Iranian state television that discussions would continuing on how to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, from which President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in 2018. Araghchi said talks had been “constructive.”

The Vienna face-to-face meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – involving Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK – took place with US Iran envoy Rob Malley stationed with a delegation round the corner in a different hotel. The French reportedly acted as an interlocutor.

Tehran has insisted that the US cannot return to JCPOA structures until it lifts all sanctions imposed by Trump under US ‘maximum pressure’ since 2018. President Joe Biden, while supporting reviving the JCPOA, has insisted Tehran first reverse steps taken in its nuclear program since 2019 beyond JCPOA limits.

Araghchi said that Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment to 20 percent – one of its nuclear violations – in return for the US signalling it would not take punitive action against banks, probably in South Korea, releasing $1 billion of Iranian assets frozen in fear of US secondary sanctions. It was unclear Araghchi was commenting on a discussion in Vienna or simply a recent US media report that Biden officials were considering such a proposal to kick-start diplomacy.

The Biden administration is not anticipating any actions against Iran amid negotiations over reinstating the 2015 nuclear deal severed by former President Donald Trump, Reuters reported.

Russia’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mikhail Ulyanov, said after the meeting that the parties had tasked two expert-level groups on sanctions-lifting and nuclear issues to identify specific measures to move the process forward. Work would being immediately with the aim of clearly identifying US sanctions violating the JCPOA and those parts of the Iranian nuclear program that are incompatible with the deal.

It was unclear if the groups would marry up the two lists and produce a plan for sequencing steps by the US and Iran. Such an approach was called for back in December, even before Biden was inaugurated, by Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In Washington the US State Department spokesman Ned Price ruled out “favors or unilateral gestures” from the US unless Tehran resumed “full compliance with the JCPOA.” He reiterated Washington’s desire both to return to the deal and for further multilateral discussions to “lengthen and strengthen” the JCPOA’s terms and to agree “follow-on arrangements to address…other areas of profound concern with Iran’s behavior in the region.”

“The restoration of #JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear deal) will not happen immediately,” Ulyanov tweeted. “It will take some time. How long? Nobody knows. The most important thing after today’s meeting of the Joint Commission is that practical work towards achieving this goal has started.”

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