U.S. officials acknowledged modest progress in the eighth round of nuclear talks with Iran and the world’s major powers. The “negotiations in January were among the most intensive that we’ve had to date,” a senior State Department official said on January 31. “And we made progress narrowing down the list of differences to just the key priorities on all sides.” The diplomat, however, said that Iran needed to “decide whether it’s prepared to make those decisions necessary for a mutual return to compliance” with the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
U.S. and European officials warned that time was running out for restoring the nonproliferation benefits of the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran’s breakout time – the time needed to produce enough fuel for one nuclear bomb – “is getting down to a matter of a few weeks,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted on January 24. “That’s not the kind of world that we want to live in.”
Iran said that key differences with the United States on sanctions relief remained, but that a deal could be swiftly concluded. “We suggest that after returning from their capitals, (other parties) come with necessary decisions so that we can conclude quickly what has been prepared in drafts,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said on January 31. “We await political decisions by Washington upon the return of the U.S. delegation.”
The eighth round of talks, which began on December 27, paused on January 28 to allow diplomats to return to their capitals for consultations. “Political decisions are needed now,” Enrique Mora, the E.U. coordinator for the negotiations, said. “Everyone knows we are reaching the final stage,” diplomats from Britain, France and Germany said. The talks resumed on February 8. The following are remarks by officials on the eighth round.
President Joe Biden
At a press conference on Jan. 19, 2022: “It's not time to give up. There is some progress being made. The P5+1 is on the same page. But it remains to be seen.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken
In a live interview on March 6, 2022: “The sanctions that are being put in place and that have been put in place on Russia have nothing to do with the- the Iran nuclear deal and the prospects of getting back into that agreement. These things are totally different and are just are not in any way linked together, so I think that's- that's irrelevant. The question is getting back into the deal. Clearly, if we can do it in our interest, getting out of the deal was one of the worst mistakes that's been made in recent years. It let the entire Iranian nuclear program that we put in a box out of the box. And so if there's a way of getting back to reimplementing that deal effectively, we it's in our interest to do it and we're working on that as we speak. It's also in Russia's interest, irrespective of anything else for Iran not to be able to have a nuclear weapon or at have the capacity to produce a weapon on very, very short order. That interest remains again, irrespective of where we are in our relationship with Russia as a result of its aggression in Ukraine.”
“We've made real progress in recent weeks on getting back to reimplementation of the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal, and I think we're close, but there are a couple of very challenging remaining issues and nothing's done until everything's done. And so unless we're able to resolve a couple of outstanding issues, then we don't get we don't get back to the deal, but we're working on it right now. We continue to believe that getting back to the deal is profoundly in our interests. Again, as I said, getting out of it was a huge mistake and letting Iran's nuclear program out of the box. Getting back into the deal on the right terms would put that program back in the box that it was in. So we'll see where we get in the in the coming days. But it is really coming down to whether we can resolve a couple of outstanding issues. If we can, we'll get back on the deal. If we can't, we won't.”
“So when it comes to hostages, we irrespective of any conversations and negotiations on the on the deal, that's something we're working constantly and we're working on a separate track not not tied to the agreement. So one way or another. We're going to continue to do everything we possibly can to get detained Americans arbitrarily detained Americans home, whether it's Iran or anywhere else. And that's something we're working again every single day when it comes to threats that that Iran is making when it comes to actions that it's taken outside of the nuclear area, including activities in the region in the Middle East that are threatening to us threatening allies and partners, again, irrespective of whether we get back into the deal or not. We will stand and act against those every single day. We were very clear when we were in the deal originally that nothing about the deal prevents us from taking action against Iran when it's engaged in actions that threaten us, threaten our allies and partners, that will very much continue. So it's not it's not contingent on the deal one way or another. We're doing that every day as well, and we're much more effective doing that when we're working closely with allies and partners.”
In remarks on Jan. 24, 2021: “We have to pick up the pieces of the disastrous decision to pull out of the agreement. And for whatever it’s – any agreement has imperfections; any agreement, because it’s the product of negotiation, is going to have elements in it that people don’t like and in an ideal world would prefer to avoid. For example, of course part of the other side of the agreement was lifting sanctions on Iran, the sanctions that had been put in place and vigorously enforced by the – first by the Bush administration and then by the Obama administration, in part to get the Iranians to the table to negotiate. But mostly the sanctions that were lifted involved lifting restrictions on countries and banks that prohibited them from sending to Iran the proceeds of Iranian oil sales to those countries. And so in effect, when those were lifted, the agreement was paid for with Iran’s own money. And sure, you would prefer that they not get a dollar. But when you’re negotiating, the other side has to get something, and that was what it got.
“So now, to – excuse me – to fast-forward to today, we are looking at whether it’s possible to return to mutual compliance with this agreement, with the JCPOA, because it remains in our estimation, of all of the imperfect choices we have, the – still the best way to try to put Iran’s nuclear program back in a box and to allow us to at the same time deal with all of the other excesses in Iranian policy because nothing in the agreement in any way prohibits us from going after, sanctioning, dealing with the other things that Iran does that we profoundly object to.
“We’re very, very close to the end of the runway on the ability to get back into this agreement because what’s happened is, is Iran has been moving forward on its program. Two things. It is getting to the point where its breakout time, the time it would take to produce fissile material for a bomb, is getting down to a matter of a few weeks, and that in and of itself is something that should not be sustained over time. That’s not the kind of world that we want to live in.
“Second, it continues to acquire knowledge and build up expertise such that at some point in the relatively near future, even going back to all of the restrictions of the JCPOA will not recapture sufficient nonproliferation benefits, arguably, to justify doing that, because of everything Iran has learned that would allow it to break out, even with the JCPOA restrictions, at a much faster rate. And so we're getting very close to that point. I can't tell you as we gather this evening whether we'll get back to mutual compliance. I think that'll be decided in the next few weeks, because again, this can't – given what Iran is doing, we can't allow this to go on. Our allies and partners in Europe feel the same way.
“I'd say interestingly, the Russians, who are part of this process, also have a sense of urgency. And we'll see what happens. And if we're not able to do that, we have been immersed in working out what we will do to deal with this problem by other means.”
At a press availability on Jan. 21, 2022: “The talks with Iran about a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA have reached a decisive moment. If a deal is not reached in the next few weeks, Iran’s ongoing nuclear advances will make it impossible to return to the JCPOA.
“But right now, there’s still a window, a brief one, to bring those talks to a successful conclusion and address the remaining concerns of all sides. We didn’t expect any major breakthroughs to happen today, but I believe we are now on a clearer path in terms of understanding each other’s concerns, each other’s positions. Let’s see what the next the next days bring.”
At a press conference on Jan. 20, 2022: “We’re now in the midst of the eighth round of talks in Vienna, and as both of us have said, we have reached what is an urgent point. The longer this goes on – which is why it can’t go on much longer – the more Iran will continue to advance its nuclear program, a program that was stopped by the JCPOA, by the nuclear deal, but that was resumed by Iran when we pulled out of it, and the shorter and shorter the so-called breakout time will become that is the time it would take Iran to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.
“So there is real urgency, and this is really now a matter of weeks where we determine whether or not we can return to mutual compliance with the agreement. My own assessment, talking to all of our colleagues, is that returning to mutual compliance remains possible. We’ve seen, I would say, some modest progress in the last couple of weeks in the talks, but we are not where we need to be. And if we don’t get there very soon, we will have to take a different course. And yes, indeed, we discussed exactly that today with our allies and partners. We did that in the Quad with Germany, with France, with the United Kingdom, and we discussed together the steps that we would take together if Iran refuses to return to compliance with the agreement on terms that are acceptable to all of us.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki
At a press briefing on Feb. 23, 2022: "There is significant progress being made, and we are close to a possible deal. But there are a number of very difficult issues that remain unresolved. And there’s very little time remaining to reach a deal given the pace of Iran’s nuclear advances.
"Also, I would note that typically the most difficult components — the last mile — is where it — where there is the most difficult conversations and negotiations.
"So, yes, significant progress and we are close. But there’s a lot that still needs to be worked out.
"It is true that Iran — we believe if Iran shows seriousness, we can and should reach an understanding on mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA within — potentially within days. But there is still more work that needs to be done."
Senior State Department Official
In a briefing on Jan. 31, 2022:
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: First, as a matter of timing, we are in the final stretch because, as we’ve said now for some time, this can’t go on forever because of Iran’s nuclear advances. This is not a prediction. It’s not a threat. It’s not an artificial deadline. It’s just a requirement that we’ve conveyed indirectly to Iran and to all our P5+1 partners for some time, which is that given the pace of Iran’s advances, its nuclear advances, we only have a handful of weeks left to get a deal, after which point it will unfortunately be no longer possible to return to the JCPOA and to recapture the nonproliferation benefits that the deal provided for us. So again, not an artificial deadline, not an ultimatum, but just a statement of fact that the Iranians have been aware of now for some time that we are reaching the final moment, after which we will no longer be in a position to come back to the JCPOA because it will no longer hold the value that we negotiated for. So that’s one reason why we say that this – we’re entering into the final – the endgame.
The second reason is substantive. We’ve been at this now for roughly 10 months, and the last – the last time we were in Vienna, the negotiations in January were among the most intensive that we’ve had to date. And we made progress narrowing down the list of differences to just the key priorities on all sides. And that’s why now is a time for political decisions. Now is the time to decide whether – for Iran to decide whether it’s prepared to make those decisions necessary for a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA.
So that’s the reason why negotiators have returned to – for consultations with their leadership to figure out whether they’re prepared to make the tough political decisions that have to be made now if we want to be in a position to secure that mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA. In other words, we will know sooner rather than later whether we are back in the – the U.S. is back in the JCPOA and Iran is back in fully implementing its obligations under the JCPOA, or whether we’re going to have to face a different reality, a reality of mounting tensions and crisis.
I think it’s been clear now for – since President Biden has been in office what the U.S. strong preference is and what we have devoted our efforts to over the past 10 months or so, and that’s full return to the JCPOA. And that’s because that would advance core U.S. national interests, it would end the current nuclear nonproliferation crisis, it would create an opportunity to depressurize the broader regional crisis. In other words, it would get us out of the situation that we inherited from the prior administration’s catastrophic error of withdrawing from the JCPOA, which left us with an unconstrained Iran nuclear program and inadequate if not wholly unsatisfactory tools to address it.
So that would be one option, which would also in our view serve regional and international interests. I think you’ve all seen the strong support for the return to the JCPOA from our Gulf partners, including a joint statement that we and the GCC put out in November, and you’ve also seen – and we mentioned it in our last call – the growing list of seniormost former Israeli officials, in particular security leaders, who now regret the JCPOA withdrawal and call it a terrible mistake.
That’s our preferred path. We know that it is very possible that Iran chooses not to go down that path, and we are ready to deal with that contingency. We hope that’s not the decision that Iran makes, but we are prepared to deal with either one of them.
I think that’s the message that all of the P5+1 have heard. I think they all are united on this notion that we have little time left, that tough decisions need to be made, and now’s the time to make them. It’s the message that our European partners in particular left the Iranian delegation in Vienna with last Friday, and it’s our understanding that it’s the message that President Macron conveyed to President Raisi when they spoke over the weekend, that there is an opportunity, that it is a significant opportunity, but there is also urgency. And if we all don’t move with that urgency, that opportunity will very soon disappear.
Before I turn it over to questions, I want to say a word about the other issue, which is our absolute priority, which is the release of our four citizens who are unjustly detained in Iran. I think you must know that we had a very intensive, discussions, with some of the – always with the families of the hostages, and we had the opportunity to meet with Barry Rosen. It was an honor to meet him and an honor to thank him for the effort that he’s been making to shine a spotlight on the outrageous detention of our citizens and of citizens from other countries. And we have – we are negotiating on the release of the detainees separately from the JCPOA, but as we’ve said, it is very hard for us to imagine a return to the JCPOA while four innocent Americans are behind bars or are detained in Iran.
For that, we would want to stress on this that any news, any information on what’s happening in the negotiations, in the talks over the release of the detainees, should come – will come – from this administration, from the State Department, from the White House. And I would urge journalists and others in particular not to pay credence to what they may see from other sources, in particular Iranian sources, which have been in the unfortunate habit of adding to the cruelty that is being inflicted on the families of the hostages, the cruelty of putting out false information and sometimes raising expectations. We’re focused on this issue. We will do everything in our power to get the detainees out. But any news will come officially from us, and at this point, we have no news to report other than that we’re continuing those discussions with the urgency and priority that they require.
QUESTION: Can you be specific in terms of right now, absent an agreement, how close Iran is, as far as you’re concerned, to breakout? Is it a matter of weeks? Less than a month? What are your concerns about the IAEA not having full visibility for as long as a year to some of the cameras, not being able to see that footage? And how much progress they’re also making on missiles and perhaps on warheads as well? So overall what’s your concerns about – in terms of the different elements of Iran’s plan, or program, I should say? And what do you think is the likelihood of them agreeing to something that would deal with those contingencies, would roll them back? What do you need to see in order for a response from Iran to be acceptable?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So everything you’ve said is actually – that’s exactly – those are the reasons why we think it is in our core national security interest to revive the JCPOA, for us and Iran to be back in compliance, because in the absence of that deal and as a result of the previous administration’s withdrawal, Iran is shortening the breakout timeline – and I’ll come back to that in a second – in ways that are extremely dangerous, and without the visibility that the IAEA had, the unprecedented access that had been negotiated for the IAEA through the JCPOA. So we are in the situation. It’s very unfortunate. We shouldn’t be this situation. We’re doing everything we can to get back to where we should have been absent that withdrawal.
Back on the breakout timeline, there obviously is information that I can’t share. I will just refer you to what various think tanks have put out. And I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to their capacity to have enough fissile material in which it – at weapons grade for a bomb, we’re talking about weeks, not months. That’s different from the timeline for weaponization, for having a bomb.
But we are very focused, as was the JCPOA, on ensuring that they can’t, that they don’t, reach the – that threshold in terms of breakout timeline on the enrichment side. And that’s what the JCPOA was very focused on, and we will continue to focus on that. And we hope with a return to the JCPOA, we know with a return to the JCPOA, that if the constraints are what we had in 2016 – and we should have the same constraints that we’re insisting on this time – we would get back to a breakout timeline that is one that we could – we could accept and that would give us the opportunity to have the kind of reassurance that we need that Iran is not going to seek an undetected breakout.
In terms of the IAEA visibility, same thing. We obviously are not in a position we’d like – and it is one of the core achievements of the JCPOA – and so we are demanding, as are all the P5+1, a return to the kind of IAEA access that existed back in 2016 and that was negotiated. So there’s no mystery. We’re trying to get Iran to go back to the requirements and a constraint that it had accepted in 2016.
As to the question about how much progress they’re making on missiles, we’ve spoken about that separately. And of course, it’s a huge concern for us and for our partners in the region and for others. It is not a subject of these negotiations, but we have other tools to deal with it. We’ll continue to use those tools. And of course, we hope that – more than hope – it is our objective to get at some point a discussion, a regional discussion that will deal with all these other issues, all of the security issues, the security concerns, and the threats that Iran presents as a result of its missile and other programs.
So how likely? When you say how likely is it that the deal – that a deal could address those contingencies, the purpose of getting back into the deal is to deal – is to address the nuclear contingency that you mentioned, the issues of enrichment breakout time and the issue of IAEA access, the question of what centrifuges Iran could operate. All of that was at the heart of the JCPOA. All of that was why the JCPOA was such an important deal to preserve and why the withdrawal was such a catastrophic mistake. That’s what we’re trying to restore.
If Iran is interested in and sees an interest in coming back to the JCPOA, we will achieve those -- we will re-establish those constraints, and in return, of course, Iran would get the sanctions relief that it bargained for back in 2015.
QUESTION: What would you say are the main last sticking points to an agreement in Vienna? Iran said today it was still around removal of sanctions and guarantees that the U.S. will not withdraw. What would you say on your side?
And then one more is there was an opening last week from Iran about direct talks that you have been asking – do you think – is there a chance that the next round is a direct one, or you are not there yet?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So I apologize in advance because this will be my answer to any specific questions about the negotiations, is that we make it a matter of principle that we won’t negotiate in public, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. So of course, to try to identify sticking points – what I will – is difficult. What I will say is that I think we are at the point where some of the core – the most critical political decisions have to be made by all sides. President Biden has said clearly we are prepared to get back into the JCPOA and to make the political decisions necessary to achieve that goal, and we’re hoping that Iran will do the same.
On the issue of direct talks, we’re not – this is not a matter of seeking – asking Iran to do us a favor with direct talks. If Iran doesn’t want to talk to us, that is, of course, their decision. Our point is, not as a favor to the U.S. or as a favor to Iran but as a favor to the process, if our goal is to reach an understanding quickly – which is what we need to do – and to avoid misunderstandings and to avoid miscommunication and to make sure that both sides know exactly what they’re getting into, the optimal way to do that in any negotiation is for the parties that have the most at stake to meet directly. That’s been our view from the outset. We’re prepared to meet with Iran if they are prepared to meet with us. We’re not – we can’t compel Iran, but we can say that we think that it would be very much in the interest of the process.
And again, I think that’s a point on which the P5+1, the Europeans, Russia, and China are absolutely in unison in believing that it would make the most sense for Iran and the U.S. to meet directly. We have not met directly yet. We have no indication that’s going to be the case when we reconvene. All I would say is – say in conclusion is that, again, given how little time is left, given how critical the decisions that need to be are, it would be deeply unfortunate – and I’m using a diplomatic term – if that opportunity were lost in part because there had not been the opportunity, the ability, for Iran and the United States to have a direct conversation. That would be extremely regrettable.
Again, not our decision. It would be up to Iran to make its own choice, but it would be very hard to explain, if we faced a crisis, to those who will suffer from the crisis that the reason for that, the reason we weren’t able to get the deal, the reason that Iran could not get the sanctions relief that it wants, was at least in part because Iran was not prepared to sit down with the U.S. and try to overcome the remaining hurdles.
QUESTION: Is there a pathway to salvaging the deal that has been laid down in the Vienna talks thus far that the U.S. is willing and ready to accept? And is that what you are talking about with Biden administration officials this week in Washington?
And then my second question is you spoke to the U.S. being prepared to deal with either situation, whether the Iran deal is salvaged or it’s not. And I’m wondering if you can be a little bit more explicit about what types of moves the U.S. would consider taking if the deal isn’t salvaged.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think we have been clear from the outset that we’re prepared to do what it would take in terms of lifting those sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA to come back into the deal. So those – that’s a decision that President Biden and Secretary Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan and other cabinet officials made some time ago. So this is not a difficult call in that respect. I think we just need to know whether Iran is prepared to make those decisions. I think, as we’ve said, if they are, they have on the U.S. side a party that is prepared to make the difficult decisions as well. So we will find out when the talks resume.
We’ve gotten into, in the past, in some of these conversations the issue of what would happen if there’s no deal. I think it’s a future that is not hard to divine. Obviously, Iran’s nuclear program in that situation would not be constrained. It would continue at the alarming pace that it has – that the Iranian leadership has undertaken for some time. And we would have to fortify our response, and that means more pressure – economic, diplomatic, and otherwise. And as I said earlier, that’s not a future that we aspire to, but it’s one that we’re ready to – a path that we’re ready to go down if that’s the decision that Iran makes. And we will use the tools that we have to ensure that our interests are preserved and that Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: You just said that decisions by the United States in terms of what sanctions you are prepared to lift were made a long time ago, and yet you’ve also said in this conversation that political decisions have to be made by all sides. At the same time, Iran said today that it has given the United States a written statement that it expects a response to. What are the political decisions that have to be made on the U.S. and P5+1/P4+1 side? So what – have they given you a written document? And what – when you say decisions have to be made by all sides, what decisions have to be made here?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m not aware of what written document they may be referring to. There are obviously a lot of exchanges of documents that take place in Vienna, so I’m not sure exactly. I’ve not seen that statement by the Iranians, so I’m not sure what they are – what they may be alluding to.
Again, your question is kind of a different way to ask the prior question about what we think, where we are in the negotiations, which I don’t want to – I’m not going to address outside of the negotiating room. I’d say the decisions that need to be made by the U.S. in order to come back to the deal have been made. We are prepared to go back into the deal. It doesn’t mean that every detail of the negotiation has been resolved from our side, but we are prepared to make those tough choices.
And again, we believe that Iran has to make a fundamental choice whether – if it wants to get back in the deal with the U.S. back in the deal and then back into full compliance. It’s a decision that they should make relatively soon for the reasons that I outlined above, and we hope that we’ll be able to when we resume to quickly reach and then implement that deal. And as I said, the U.S. – and I think I could speak for the Europeans as well – are prepared to do what it takes to be back in – well, the E3 never were out of compliance, but for us to be back in compliance with the deal and for Iran to receive the benefits that it was promised under that deal.
QUESTION: Can you help us understand the evolution of Iran’s position? It played hardball, as we all know, at the beginning. Has it – did it kind of soften with that posturing? Has it been demonstrably more flexible in ways that are hopeful?
And secondly, on the process itself, there have always been two parts to it. One was the substance of the deal, and the second was the sequencing; in other words, who does what when and who goes first. Can you help us understand? Is the sequencing not even been dealt with? Are you just dealing with the first part?
And since the IAEA has not had visibility in key facilities like Karaj, which manufactures centrifuges now for a year, how concerned are you about a sneakout versus a breakout in which Iran is creating alternatives by taking things that haven’t – centrifuges that haven’t been captured on camera and moving them to a place so it has a fallback if it wants to do something after the IAEA gets back?
And finally, can you help us understand why two key team members of your team have left?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t want to get into speculation as to what happened on the Iranian side. I think it is fair to say that when they came back, when the first meeting we had with – when the new government was in – sent its team to Vienna, it was a very tough round in which everyone – again, I think I’m – I think it was shared by all of the P5+1 that what we heard from Iran was inconsistent with all of the discussions that had taken place since March and April, but also inconsistent with what any logical return to the JCPOA would entail.
Since then, I think as we’ve said, we are back in a serious, businesslike negotiation in which, again, there are still significant gaps, so I don’t want to in any way understate those. But we are in a position where the conversations are, as I said, businesslike and where we can see a path to a deal if those decisions are made and if it’s done quickly.
So, of course, everything has been discussed. And obviously, sequencing has been discussed, and I think I’ve said on prior calls that we don’t think that that’s going to be the real obstacle to reaching a deal. We don’t think that the question of who goes first is going to be an insuperable obstacle as long as there’s a sequence agreed and enough confidence by both sides that the steps that the other side – that each side – that the steps that the other side needs to take will be taken. I think that’s not something that should stand in the way of reaching an understanding.
Yes, of course we are concerned by the loss of visibility by the IAEA. At the same time, any understanding, if we were to reach an understanding of our return to the JCPOA and Iran resuming full implementation, the IAEA would have to do what is called a baselining to make sure that it has a picture of the state of Iran’s nuclear program. And we have confidence that – and we’ve discussed this with Director General Grossi – that they would have the tools to meet that requirement. So yes, and the more time goes by, the more difficult it is; and there will come a time, if there is continued lack of visibility, where it will become extraordinarily difficult. But right now, we believe we can still – the IAEA can still do the work it needs to do so that we know the state of Iran’s nuclear program.
Finally, on your question about personnel, I think you all know one of my two deputies, Richard Nephew, is moving to another job in the State Department. I want to say I think Richard was and is an exceptional colleague and somebody who will – wherever he will end up in the department will do extraordinary work. And so it’s obviously with regret that we see him moving on to some other position, but that’s not unusual a year or two into – a year into a new administration. And Jarrett Blanc, who has been the other deputy, is still here and continuing in those – in his prior responsibilities.
A lot of the stories that have been said about the team are simply misinformed. The team presents a wide range of policy options and arguments to the senior-most leadership of our government, but at the end of the day, the team simply implements – the Iran team implements the policies that the President, Secretary of State, the national security advisors, and others in the Cabinet have decided on. This is not a matter of person; it’s a matter of what the policy of the administration is. And that’s the policy that’s being conducted, and so it’s not a matter of personal differences. It’s a matter of a policy that the administration has settled on and that everyone serving the administration is pursuing.
QUESTION: You’ll remember that in 2015 – and it bled into 2016 – the actual implementation of the deal took a while to happen. You actually had an implementation day by which time all of the excess uranium beyond the limits of the 2015 deal were shipped out to Russia and certain pieces of equipment were dismantled and so forth.
Assuming for a minute that the decisions – political decisions come together, and we understand that may or may not happen, do you now have confidence that you have a schedule in place that would provide a public, visible reduction in the nuclear material back to the 2015 levels, that would be confirmable by the IAEA, visible to everybody, we’d see the shipments and so forth much as we did in 2015?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We would not come back into deal without the confidence and the verification by the IAEA about – that Iran had met all of its requirements under the deal, and that’s not something I think that is really in dispute in these talks. I don’t think that’s an issue on which – that Iran would object to. At least that would come as a surprise.
So whatever – when a deal – if and when a deal – and you’re right to say that it’s sort of a big “if.” But if and when a deal is reached, of course, each side will have to undertake its obligations. And on Iran’s side, it has always been understood that the – in terms of the – its disposition of its enriched uranium, that would have to be verified by the IAEA, and so we don’t expect anything different.
QUESTION: I want to try one question one more time in probably another way. Has the U.S. offered or presented its final offer to the Iranian side with regards to sanctions removal or is there room for some maneuver?
During the indirect talks with regards to the possible exchange, has Iran raised its demand for the release of Iranians who are under prosecution or imprisonment in the U.S. for federal offenses? And what is your position on whether dropping charges or granting early releases for those Iranians – is it acceptable as part of a future prisoner swap?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s a very sensitive negotiation. It’s one in which the lives of our fellow citizens are at stake, so I really don’t want to get into any details about what we are – what is being under discussion. For us, this is an absolute priority to get the four back home and we will not do anything that could complicate either the return or the treatment that they are undergoing while in Iran.
On your other question, if I understood you, you said has the U.S. presented its final offer about what it would do on sanctions relief. Let me make a broader point. This is a negotiation, as I said earlier, with very high stakes for national security, for all the reasons that I gave. And again, it’s not an issue that we should be dealing with, but unfortunately, we’ve been met with this hand and so we have to deal with it, and we’re dealing with it as best we can to protect our core national security interests.
So this – we’re not looking to create theatrics or cinematic moments. Rather, along with the E3 and in consultation with our other P5+1 partners, we – what we want to do is clarify for Iran what we think are the outstanding issues, and to identify them and to identify areas where we think there’s – what the compromises could look like.
So that’s what we’re doing, trying to communicate to Iran at the same time that there’s time pressure not created by us, and not arbitrarily introduced by us, but created by Iran’s nuclear steps and Iran’s so far refusal to slow them and – slow them down or halt them.
So again, just to repeat, not going to negotiate in public, we’re not going to say what we have – what we suggested and what Iran has suggested on its end, but simply to say this is not – we’re not into this to create drama. We’re here to get the best outcome possible for U.S. national security interests. We hope Iran would agree to that, so that it – so that we could come back into the JCPOA, and that Iran will be back in full compliance. If that’s not the case, we’re ready to deal with the alternative.
QUESTION: First question, I want to follow up on what you said on direct talks, possible direct talks with Iran. And from what you said, it seemed that your assessment is that if there are direct talks, you can get the deal, so that this is one of the last things you need in order to get the deal, that if you just sit together in the same room with the Iranians, you can get a deal. Is this actually what you’re saying?
And the other question is for a few weeks now, you’re saying that there are only a few weeks left for negotiations, and you also said that the way for the Iranians to put more time on the clock was to slow down their nuclear program. Did you see any slowdown in the Iranian nuclear program in the last – in recent days or weeks?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So on your first question, I don’t think – I think you significantly overread what I said and then misread what I said. I certainly didn’t say that if we had direct talks we can get into the deal. What I said was this is a complicated negotiation with room for a lot of misunderstanding, a lot of misinterpretation and miscommunication. And we think it would be facilitated by direct talks and accelerated by direct talks, absolutely no guarantee that if we sat down together, that’s not – that’s not a magical solution. It may – we still may find ourselves at an impasse. What I said was it would be regrettable if, looking back, one of the reasons – one of the reasons why we were not able to reach a deal would be because of the inability to sit down and try to overcome the remaining hurdles.
Again, not saying that if we did that, we’d reach a deal; not saying that if we don’t do that, we can’t reach a deal. Saying that it doesn’t make sense if you want to put all of the – if you want to do everything possible to see if you could reach a deal, a deal that both sides would accept, that you would not agree to sit down together. But again, we’re not – obviously, we’re not begging for a meeting. That’s – if there’s no meeting, there’s no meeting. We just think that it would be the logical step to take if in fact we are determined to do everything possible to get back into deal. And it is a position that I think all of the P5+1 has echoed, because all of them believe that it's simply common sense that in a negotiation, parties with a very important – perhaps the central stakes in this negotiation should sit down and try to see what potential solutions are. But if that’s not the case, we’ll try to reach a deal without that.
On your second point, I would say this – and we’ve said this many times: At the current pace, at Iran’s current pace, we only have very few weeks to reach a deal. You’ve said that we’ve said that now for some weeks, so do the math. There are many fewer weeks left now than there were when we first said it.
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price
In a press briefing on Feb. 23, 2022: “There has been significant progress, and we are close to a possible deal, but at the same time, a number of very difficult issues remain unresolved. What we know is that there is very little time remaining to reach a deal, to resolve these remaining issues given the pace of Iran’s nuclear advances. You’ve heard us say this before, but it remains true that even as we are narrowing the set of issues we’re discussing, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
“If Iran shows seriousness, if it demonstrates serious of purpose in Vienna, we believe that we can and should reach an understanding on a potential mutual return to compliance in short order, potentially within days. But anything much beyond that, if this were to drag on any longer than that, would put the possibility of return to the deal at grave and profound risk.”
In a press briefing on Jan. 6, 2022: “What I can tell you is to echo what you heard from us just a day or two ago, and that is namely that Special Envoy Malley and his team are engaged in the eighth round of talks. Those resumed on January 3rd. We spoke to modest progress in those talks earlier this week. We’ve continued to see that modest progress. We hope to build on that over the course of this week, what remains of it, and in the days ahead.
“Now, what is true – and you referenced this in your question – is that time is absolutely running short, and we have not – we have not been shy in making that clear. If we don’t soon reach an understanding on mutual return to compliance, Iran’s accelerating nuclear steps will hollow out those nonproliferation benefits the JCPOA conveyed, and we will have to consider a different path forward. That is a matter of weeks; it is certainly not a matter of months. But again, you have heard us speak to this not as a clock, as a standard clock, but rather on the basis of a technical assessment of Iran’s nuclear program rather than any sort of temporal clock with a date that has long been fixed.”
President Ebrahim Raisi
To the press on Feb. 21, 2022: “The United States must show their desire to lift the main sanction.”
"To reach an accord, it is necessary to guarantee the interests of the Iranian people, in particular the lifting of sanctions, (give) a strong guarantee and end dossiers of a political character."
In a televised interview on Jan. 25, 2022: “We have not had talks with the Americans. But as we have announced earlier and announce again, if the (other) sides are willing to lift the unjust sanctions against the Iranian nation, there is room for any agreement.”
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian
In a phone call with E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borell on March 4, 2022: “The requirement for the presence of foreign ministers in Vienna and announcing a final agreement is contingent on fully observing Iran’s declared red lines, including effective economic guarantees.”
The West’s “haste” to reach a nuclear deal “cannot prevent the observance of Iran’s red lines."
In a tweet on Feb. 26, 2022: “Seriously reviewing draft of the agreement. Had a phone call w @JosepBorrellF today, & Mr Bagheri is in contact w Mr Mora. All trying to reach a good deal. Our red lines are made clear to western parties. Ready to immediately conclude a good deal, should they show real will.”
In an interview with the Financial Times published on Feb. 16, 2022: “As a matter of principle, public opinion in Iran cannot accept as a guarantee the words of a head of state, let alone the United States, due to the withdrawal of Americans from the JCPOA.”
“At least their (Western) parliaments or parliament speakers, including the U.S. Congress, can declare in the form of a political statement their commitment to the agreement and return to the JCPOA implementation.”
“Iran’s commitments are as clear as a mathematical formula. It is absolutely clear what we are supposed to do and how these measures will be verified through the IAEA (the U.N. nuclear watchdog). Therefore the other side can have no concern; But we remain concerned primarily about the guarantees [that the United States would not withdraw].”
“We are facing problems during this period because the other party lacks a serious initiative.”
“This [partial lifting of sanctions] is not all we are looking for. That Trump unilaterally and unjustly imposed sanctions on real and legal entities in Iran under some allegations as Iran’s missile program, regional issues or human rights is not acceptable. This is also one of the challenges which remains on the negotiating table in Vienna.”
“Our last response to Americans and intermediaries was: any direct dialogue, contact and negotiation with the U.S. would have very huge costs for my government.”
“We are not ready to enter into the process of direct talks with the U.S. if we do not have a clear and promising outlook to reach a good agreement with sustainable guarantees in front of us.”
If U.S. “intentions are genuine, you should take some practical and tangible steps on the ground before any direct talks and contacts can take place.”
In “general, we are optimistic.”
“We also welcome a good deal in the shortest time however this deal must uphold the rights of the Iranian people.”
To the press on Feb. 14, 2022: "It’s better for Iran if there’s an agreement in Vienna and sanctions are lifted today rather than tomorrow.”
“So we are in a hurry for a good agreement, but it must be within the framework of logical talks and to achieve the rights of the Iranian nation.”
In phone call, FS @trussliz & I reviewed bilat ties & agreed on importance of maintaining good relations. On right track for UK debt to be repaid.— H.Amirabdollahian امیرعبداللهیان (@Amirabdolahian) February 15, 2022
Reiterated dire humanitarian situation in Yemen & Af.
Good deal within reach in Vienna, if western parties adopt realistic approach. pic.twitter.com/JHrXd90qhx
In remarks on Jan. 24, 2022: “Reports saying that Iran and the U.S. are directly negotiating with one another are untrue. However, if we get to a stage where reaching a good deal with strong guarantees necessitates direct talks with the U.S., we will consider it.”
In a tweet on Jan. 6, 2022: “Talks in Vienna are proceeding in the right direction. Iran’s initiatives brought the talks back on track in a constructive atmosphere. It is now up to the Western side to show good faith and commitment for a good deal.”
In an interview with Al Jazeera published on Jan. 6, 2022: “Lifting sanctions means lifting all forms of sanctions stipulated in the nuclear agreement, and the sanctions that Trump reimposed contradict the terms of the agreement.”
“We demand guarantees that include not imposing any new sanctions, and not reimposing sanctions after lifting them under any pretext.”
“There’s an informal and an indirect exchange of message with the Americans in Vienna – we hear good words from that delegation, but what is important to us is to see practical and serious American actions.”
In a tweet on Jan. 6, 2022: “Talks in Vienna are proceeding in the right direction. Iran’s initiatives brought the talks back on track in a constructive atmosphere.
“It is now up to the Western side to show good faith and commitment for a good deal.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani
In a tweet on Feb. 24, 2022: Being near the finish line is no guarantee to crossing that. It requires extra caution, much perseverance, additional creativity and balanced approach to take the last step.
To finish the job, there are certain decisions that our Western interlocutors need to take.
In a tweet on Feb. 16, 2022: "After weeks of intensive talks, we are closer than ever to an agreement; nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, though.
Our negotiating partners need to be realistic, avoid intransigence and heed lessons of past 4yrs.
Time for their serious decisions."
“The more serious the other side is in being prepared to lift sanctions and accept Iran's mechanisms for lifting sanctions, especially on verification and guarantee issues, the sooner we can reach an agreement.”
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh
In a tweet on March 3, 2022: #ViennaTalks still continue.
Premature good news does not substitute good agreement.
Nobody can say the deal is done, until all the outstanding remaining issues are resolved. Extra efforts needed.
Everybody is now focused on the final critical steps.
In a news conference on Feb. 28, 2022: "Reaching a good deal is possible ... three key issues still remain to be resolved. The U.S. and European powers have not taken political decisions on these major issues."
These issues are "in the fields of removal of sanctions, guarantees and some political claims about Iran's peaceful nuclear program."
Misinformation disguised as reporting is dangerous.— Saeed Khatibzadeh | سعید خطیبزاده (@SKhatibzadeh) February 17, 2022
The final deal to let the US return to the JCPOA will be far from the unsourced spin making the rounds. It won't be a bilateral agreement either.
Expect more spin as we approach final days.
To the press on Jan. 31, 2022: “Important and significant issues remain regarding the removal of sanctions that have not made an agreement possible so far.”
There has been “very significant progress” in the last three weeks in talks on sanctions relief and nuclear commitments.
“We suggest that after returning from their capitals, (other parties) come with necessary decisions so that we can conclude quickly what has been prepared in drafts.”
“The other parties know the differences clearly. They need to make political decisions, especially in Washington.”
“We await political decisions by Washington upon the return of the U.S. delegation.”
To the press on Jan. 24, 2021: “Progress in the talks is headed in the right direction. In all four areas we have had good progress.”
“Many of Iran’s ideas have turned into words, such as in the area of guarantees. What’s important is that all of the sides in the negotiations have accepted that what happened in previous years with the U.S. exit from the JCPOA should not be repeated.”
To the press on Jan. 11, 2021: “The pace of the talks is a matter of importance, and it’s a two-way matter. It’s impossible for us to move at the speed of light while the other sides move at the speed of a tortoise.”
Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani
In a tweet on March 10, 2022: “US approach to Iran's principled demands, coupled with its unreasonable offers and unjustified pressure to hastily reach an agreement, show that US isn't interested in a strong deal that would satisfy both parties. Absent US political decision, the talks get knottier by the hour.”
In a tweet on March 7, 2022: “Vienna participants act & react based on interests and it's understandable. Our interactions with 4+1 are also solely driven by our people's interests. Thus, we're assessing new elements that bear on the negotiations and will accordingly seek creative ways to expedite a solution.”
In a tweet on March 5, 2022: “Strategy of active resistance defeated Trump's policy of maximum pressure confessing by current US administration.
If #ViennaTalks do not lead to a good deal, current US administration will feel defeated in near future due to lack of timely use of diplomatic opportunities.
A good deal is possible because of significant progress in the talks, largely due to Iranian initiatives, but the final stage of the #ViennaTalks will not take place without Western political decision-making to resolve crucial issues that are required to "balance the deal."— علی شمخانی (@alishamkhani_ir) February 24, 2022
In a tweet on Feb. 22, 2022: "Peaceful capability of #Iran's nuclear program must always remain like sword of Damocles above the heads of violators as a real guarantee for fulfillment of their obligations. After US withdrawal from #JCPOA in 2018, it was better to use this inherent guarantee more effectively."
In a tweet on Feb. 21, 2022: "#ViennaTalks have been going on between #Iran, P4+1 and the representative of EU, from the beginning and this path will continue unchanged until a result is reached. Negotiation with US is not on the agenda of Iranian team because it will not be the source of any progress."
In a tweet on Feb. 16, 2022: "The US and Europe failed the test of their compliance with JCPOA. Regarding the economic field and the lifting of sanctions, JCPOA has now become an empty shell for #Iran. There will be no extra-JCPOA talks with the committed US and inactive Europe. #ViennaTalks"
In a tweet on Feb. 15, 2022: "The real lifting of sanctions means that #Iran will enjoy credible and sustainable economic benefits.
Proven American malpractice is the most important threat to any agreement.
Verification and providing a guarantee is an integral part of a #GoodDeal."
In a tweet on Feb. 14, 2022: “#ViennaTalks have reached a stage where outcome can be announced without speculation and with certainty.
“The US political decision to realize or refuse to accept the requirements of a credible and lasting deal based on the principles accepted in #JCPOA can replace speculation.”
In a tweet on Feb. 13, 2022: “Tonight's phone call with @Bagheri_Kani confirmed 2 statements in my mind about #ViennaTalks:
1. Increasing difficulty of Iranian negotiators task to advance the logical and legal instructions of Tehran
2. Continuation of initiative "show" by Western parties to evade commitments”
In a tweet on Feb. 9, 2022: “Voices from the US government show that there is no coherence in the country to make political decisions in the direction of advancement in the #ViennaTalks. The US administration can not pay for its internal disputes by violating #Iran's legal rights.”
In a tweet on Feb. 8, 2022: “Economic & technological capacities of the country have an integrated structure & lifting of sanctions should be same for all sectors. Previous experience has shown that without effective lifting of sanctions, sustainable economic benefits from #JCPOA are like an illusion.”
In a tweet on Feb. 8, 2022: “Continuing maximum pressure against #Iran, current US administration has so far tried to meet the goals that Trump failed to achieve through bullying, by making unsupported promises. With this Washington's illusions, the path to negotiations will not be smooth. #ViennaTalks.”
In a tweet on Feb. 7, 2022: “The agenda for the Iranian negotiators to continue the eighth round of #ViennaTalks has been carefully defined. An agreement in which the sanctions that form the maximum pressure are not lifted will condition the country's economy and cannot be the basis of a #GoodDeal.”
In a tweet on Jan. 19, 2022: “The #Iran's oil trading and its financial affairs, has reached appropriate and irreversible conditions. It is not possible to promise to lift a sanction that has become ineffective, in order to score a point. #ActiveResistance”
Britain, France and Germany (E3)
In a statement on March 8, 2022: “The window of opportunity is closing. We call on all sides to make the decisions necessary to close this deal now, and on Russia not to add extraneous conditions to its conclusion.”
In a statement on Jan. 28, 2022: “January has been the most intensive period of these talks to date.”
“Everyone knows we are reaching the final stage, which requires political decisions. Negotiators are therefore returning to capitals for consultation.”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss
In remarks to Parliament on Jan. 15, 2022: “This negotiation is urgent, and progress has not been fast enough.”
“We continue to work in close partnership with our allies, but the negotiations are reaching a dangerous impasse.”
“And if the JCPOA collapses, all options are on the table.”
President Emmanuel Macron
Readout of President Macron's phone call with Iranian President Raisi on Jan. 30, 2022: “The President of the Republic reiterated his conviction that a diplomatic solution is possible and imperative, and stressed that any agreement will require clear and sufficient commitments from all the parties.”
“Several months after the resumption of negotiations in Vienna, he insisted on the need to accelerate in order to quickly achieve tangible progress in this framework.”
“He underlined the need for Iran to demonstrate a constructive approach and return to the full implementation of its obligations.”
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian
In remarks on Feb. 16, 2022: “We have reached tipping point now. It's not a matter of weeks; it's a matter of days.”
“Political decisions are needed from the Iranians. Either they trigger a serious crisis in the coming days, or they accept the agreement which respects the interests of all parties.”
In a parliamentary hearing on Jan. 11, 2022: “The discussions are ongoing. They are slow, too slow and that creates a gap that jeopardises the chance of finding a solution that respects the interests of all sides.”
“Bits of progress were made at the end of December, but we are still far from concluding this negotiation.”
In an interview with BFM TV and RMC Radio on Jan. 7, 2022: “I remain convinced we can reach a deal. Bits of progress have been made in the last few days.”
“We have been heading in a positive direction in the last few days, but time is of the essence, because if we don't get an accord quickly there will be nothing to negotiate.”
Foreign Ministry Political Director Philippe Errera
In a tweet on Feb. 24, 2022: "Tehran is playing with fire @laurnorman. As we say in French, 'if faut savoir jusqu'ou aller trop loin.' E3 know where we stand: #endgame."
In a tweet on Feb. 23, 2022:
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” - familiar sentence on every draft since negotiations started in April. Never has it been more true than today. #ViennaTalks #JCPOA #endgame pic.twitter.com/8omiBQCCR6— Philippe Errera (@PhilippeErrera) February 23, 2022
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre
In a briefing to reporters on Feb. 28, 2022: “There is indeed critical urgency to conclude the negotiations this week.”
Chancellor Olaf Scholz
In an interview with CNN on Feb. 7, 2022: “This is now the time for Iran to make a decision. There's no time for prolonging.
“Because we look at the situation in Iran and we see that they are making progress with that capacity building of having a nuclear bomb and being able to use them on missiles and because of that it's clear that we will not wait.”
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock
In a joint press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Feb. 10, 2022: I am “convinced that a full restoration of the JCPOA would make the region more secure, including Israel, otherwise we would not be having these talks.”
It is important for Iranian officials to return to talks “with a willingness to compromise and without maximum demands.”
“We want to do everything we can to ensure that with this agreement, Israel’s security is guaranteed.”
In a joint press conference with Secretary Blinken on Jan. 20, 2022: “Unfortunately, here too we have come to state that in the ongoing negotiations in Vienna – core issues regarding the nuclear topics, but also with an eye to lifting sanctions – are still waiting for a solution. And in parallel, Iran continues to expand its nuclear program. That’s the window for solution increasingly moves towards being shut. Negotiations have entered a decisive phase and we need to urgently make concrete progress, because otherwise we will not succeed in reaching an agreement which would be sufficient in providing additional value added on the central issue of non-proliferation.”
“If I may also comment, as far as Iran is concerned, the negotiations in Vienna have not entered a decisive phase, but the decisive phase, because we are in the truest sense of the expression running out of time, because parallel to the ongoing negotiations, Iran is increasing the nuclear spiral of escalation. Uranium enrichment up to the level of 60 percent has been achieved by Iran is unparalleled for a country that has no nuclear weapons. And there’s no plausible explanation for that, nor has Iran tried to provide such a plausible explanation. We talked about this today, and in our talks today we highlighted what Tony Blinken just said: these weeks are the decisive weeks. Our objective is to maintain and to preserve the agreement and, above all, to make Iran see sense and to ensure that Iran can no further increase its enrichment capacity.
“We, as I said, engage as the members of the Quad. The members of the E3 sent out a letter right before Christmas to Iran. We – I took it all to up with the Russian foreign minister who I met the day before yesterday. Direct talks have taken place, directly engaging with Iran. I talked about this today when I talked to my Chinese counterpart, and undoubtedly my colleague will take it up tomorrow. So that, I think, is an indication of the fact that it is not only the Quad that plays a part here, but that we are all working the same direction. Also there’s been change with – exchange with China and Russia.”
In a joint press conference with Secretary of State Blinken on Jan. 5, 2022: “The discussions and negotiations in Iran are entering a crucial phase. Iran has squandered a lot of trust and there is not much time, but we intensively use this time together in Vienna.”
Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora
In a tweet on March 7, 2022: "Just to clarify. There are no longer 'expert level talks'. Nor 'formal meetings'. It is time, in the next few days, for political decisions to end the #ViennaTalks . The rest is noise."
In a tweet on March 3, 2022: “We are at the final stages of the #ViennaTalks on #JCPOA. Some relevant issues are still open and success is never guaranteed in such a complex negotiation. Doing our best in the coordinator's team. But we are definitely not there yet.”
In a tweet on Feb. 22, 2022: #JCPOA #ViennaTalks are at a crucial moment. We are nearing the end after ten months of negotiations. The result is still uncertain. Key issues need to be fixed. But all delegations are fully engaged. Intense work in Coburg.
Working Group on sanctions lifting meeting right now at Coburg. More meetings scheduled for today. Success of #ViennaTalks on #JCPOA is still uncertain, what’s only logical in such a complex negotiation. But, as coordinator I can’t but commend delegations commitment to a success. pic.twitter.com/xTPCLmpKKp— Enrique Mora (@enriquemora_) January 16, 2022
In a tweet on Jan. 28, 2022: “The 8th round of the #ViennaTalks #JCPOA , which started 27 December, so far the longest, takes a break. Participants will go back to capital for consultations and instructions to come back next week. Political decisions are needed now. Safe travels to all participants.”
In a televised press conference on Dec. 27, 2021:
“The reason for calling this eighth round, starting today, on the 27th, is simply because there is, again, a sense of urgency. We have to work. We have to work hard. And the coordinator thought that it was not acceptable to lose, let’s say, 10 days more. So that’s why we are here. We’re working this week. We will of course stop if only the facilities will not be available for those three days of the end of the year. But we will be back on Monday. And we will continue working. But again, the reason why we are here today, Monday, 27th December, is because we have to focus on this negotiation. And we don’t have much time to finish it.”
“The mechanics of the negotiation have been the same since the very beginning, since back in April. You know, here, there are two parallel processes. On the one side, we have participating states in the JCPOA meeting in the joint commission and negotiating how Iran can go back to full compliance with the nuclear commitments. At the same time, we have the so-called proximity talks, which basically are among the United States and Iran. They don’t meet directly. As I said, an Iranian decision. And that’s why the coordinator plays the role of facilitator in these proximity talks along with other delegations that can be extremely useful and instrumental in approaching the different positions. So, yes, there are exchange of documents between the two delegations, there are exchange of proposals, and this has been basically the mechanics from the very beginning, and we are still working on that in the sanctions lifting issue. As for different, I mean this has already been a long negotiation, it’s completely unavoidable that there are differences, different perceptions, different discussions. This is part of the negotiation, and the important thing is that all delegations, all the negotiators, are completely focused on bringing this negotiation to a successful outcome.”
President Vladimir Putin
To the press on Feb. 15, 2022: Germany and Russia “are in constant contact on this issue at the level of the ministries of foreign affairs, and I should point out that our positions are rather close.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov
In remarks on Jan. 11, 2022: “The Vienna talks have speeded up. We believe that the chances to reach a solution within the framework that had been developed during the previous rounds, including six rounds held until June 20, have increased. This is a positive thing. All parties are demonstrating readiness to solve the remaining problems.”
“A step-by-step approach based on reciprocity [is likely to be used] to achieve the main goal.”
“I would like to emphasize that possible intermediate steps are not going to replace, substitute the basic agreement, which needs to be fully restored. The Russian side proceeds from this, while providing political and diplomatic assistance to Iranians, Americans and Europeans.”
Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna
In a tweet on Feb. 28, 2022: "Tehran #JCPOA participants met this evening in Palais Coburg in Vienna. Tremendous progress has been made since April 2021, when the talks starts. But there is a rule: nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The last effort is necessary to conclude #ViennaTalks successfully."
In a tweet on Feb. 22, 2022: "Met with #EU Coordinator at the #ViennaTalks Mr. Enrique Mora. Exchanged views on the current state of affairs. Apparently the negotiations on restoration of the #JCPOA are about to cross the finish line."
In an interview with Rossiya 24 television on Jan. 26, 2022: “If the talks continue at the current pace, it is quite realistic that we reach an agreement by the end of February.”
“It will take time for the Americans to prepare for the lifting of sanctions and provide the necessary conditions for [foreign] businesses to return to Iran.”
“Tehran in turn will need a month or two to prepare for a full return to its previous obligations under the deal.”
“So, in reality, the deal could be revived no later than April.”
“The Iranians are not ready [for direct talks with the Americans].”
“But just the other day, Iran's foreign minister said that if the talks reach a point when there is a need for dialogue with the U.S. for the sake of a good deal, Iran will not dismiss such an opportunity. This is a signal that direct talks could take place soon.”
In a tweet on Jan. 8, 2021: “At the of end of the day #JCPOA participants (without Iran) and the US held a traditional meeting. The difficult issue of guarantees of non-repetition of the recent problems, inter alia, was discussed. The Russian delegation presented a number of suggestions in this regard.”
In a tweet on Jan. 5, 2022: “During the 7th round of the # ViennaTalks comments varied (unjustifiably, to my mind) from negative to sceptical thus creating atmosphere not conducive to making progress. We need to be more objective: the talks continue to advance slowly but steadily.”
In a tweet on Dec. 31, 2021: “Indeed, we observe some progress on two tracks: at the negotiating table and in public assessments of the situation at the #ViennaTalks. Now for the first time since June these assessments contain cautious positive elements. That means that the negotiators really move ahead.”