Military: Gen. Mohammad Hosseinzadeh Hejazi, the deputy commander of the Qods Force, died of heart disease, the Revolutionary Guards announced.
Nuclear: The IAEA and the Iranian government began expert-level talks in Vienna over uranium particles discovered by the nuclear watchdog at undeclared sites in Iran. The talks were aimed at "clarifying outstanding safeguards issues," the IAEA said.
The Russian and the US delegations at the Vienna talks held useful bilateral consultations on issues related to US sanctions lifting and return of Iran to full compliance with its nuclear commitments under #JCPOA. pic.twitter.com/qPWJoIQm7H— Mikhail Ulyanov (@Amb_Ulyanov) April 19, 2021
Health: Iran cancelled its annual Qods Day rallies scheduled for May 7, the last Friday of Ramadan, due to the outbreak of the fourth coronavirus wave. The annual event was started by the Islamic Republic in 1979 and is typically marked by government-sponsored protests against Israel. This was the second year in a row that Iran was forced to cancel street rallies for Qods Day.
Nuclear: Diplomatic talks in Vienna over returning the United States and Iran to the nuclear deal paused to give delegations time to consult with their capitals. Parties would resume discussions the following week. "There has been some progress, but there remains a long road ahead," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. "And I think it’s fair to say that we have more road ahead of us than we do in the rearview mirror."
Diplomacy: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Tehran for three days of talks, Tasnim News Agency reported. He planned to meet with three senior officials: President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.
Diplomacy: Iran and Saudi Arabia would hold a second round of direct talks by the end of April, Reuters reported. The two regional rivals held secret talks in Baghdad earlier this month where they discussed the civil war in Yemen and the political situation in Lebanon.
Human Rights: Iran executed at least 246 people in 2020, the second highest number of executions in the world after China, Amnesty International reported. "Although recorded executions in Iran continued to be lower than previous years, the country increasingly used the death penalty as a weapon of political repression against dissidents, protesters and members of ethnic minority groups, in violation of international law," the report read.
I've learned that Pope Francis privately called on Iran's leaders to free human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh from prison. She is known as the Mandela of Iran, and she deserves so much better than a prison cell. Thanks, @Pontifex, for this humanitarian gesture. cc @JZarif— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) April 21, 2021