From April 6 to 9, Iran attended indirect talks on its nuclear program hosted by the European Union in Vienna. The talks included the other five participants to the 2015 nuclear deal—Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia—and the United States. Iran did not meet directly with the United States but held separate discussions with the five remaining participants, known as the P4+1. The Iranian delegation included representatives from the Central Bank of Iran and the Petroleum Ministry, which reflected Tehran’s interest in sanctions relief. After the first week of talks, the parties reconvened on April 15.
Iran's goal in Vienna was to “rapidly finalize sanction-lifting & nuclear measures for choreographed removal of all sanctions, followed by Iran ceasing remedial measures,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on April 2. More specifically, the goal was reportedly to draft two agreements – one with the United States and one with Iran – to detail steps each would take to restore full compliance with the nuclear pact.
The new diplomacy is designed to reverse the policy of President Donald Trump, who abandoned the accord in May 2018. He also reimposed punitive economic sanctions that had been lifted by the deal. After the Trump decision, Iran continued to comply with its obligations for more than a year. But in July 2019, it began breaching the agreement. Iran’s breaches were incremental and calibrated until the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top nuclear scientist, in November 2020.
Iran then took steps – including enriching uranium up to 20 percent – that could bring Tehran closer to sufficient fuel for a bomb. Enriching from 20 percent to weapons-grade levels – 90 percent or higher–could be a relatively quick process if Tehran made the political decision to actually produce the world’s deadliest weapon. As a result of Iran’s breaches, the so-called breakout time – or the time Iran would need to enrich enough uranium to make one nuclear bomb – has shortened from one year in 2015 to about three months in 2021, the Institute for Science and International Security estimated. The following are Iranian statements on the new diplomacy.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
Iran proposes logical path to full JCPOA compliance:— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) April 9, 2021
-US—which caused this crisis—should return to full compliance first;
-Iran will reciprocate following rapid verification;
-All Trump sanctions were anti-JCPOA & must be removed—w/o distinction between arbitrary designations.
At virtual JCPOA JC meeting, Iran & EU/E3+2 agreed to resume in-person talks in Vienna next Tues.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) April 2, 2021
Aim: Rapidly finalize sanction-lifting & nuclear measures for choreographed removal of all sanctions, followed by Iran ceasing remedial measures.
No Iran-US meeting. Unnecessary.
In a telephone call with French FM @JY_LeDrian today I urged France to show a constructive stance on the JCPOA in next week’s meeting in Vienna.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) April 3, 2021
I called on France to honor its commitments under the accord, and to cease abiding by illegal sanctions imposed by the US.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi
Remarks to Press TV on April 13, 2021: “We believe this round of negotiations is the time for the U.S. to present a list and I hope that I can go back to Tehran with the list of sanctions which should be lifted. Otherwise, it would be a waste of time.”
Interview with The Wall Street Journal on April 9, 2021: “All the sanctions imposed or reimposed by the Trump administration should be reversed because they were all part of the maximum pressure policy against the JCPOA, and in order to kill the JCPOA.”
“The United States knows what they have to do to satisfy Iran, and we know what to do to satisfy the [U.N. atomic energy] agency so we just need to identify the measures.”
Interview with Press TV on April 7, 2021: “To us, it does not matter what aspirations our opposite sides have about the future of the negotiations. The position of the Islamic Republic of Iran is completely clear and we will not have any talks on other issues.”
“If we see that the negotiating parties are seeking to waste time or pursuing other goals, we will stop [participation in] the negotiations at the current level.”
“It is worth mentioning that we have no subject such as a step-by-step implementation of commitments on the agenda. All the required measures will be taken in one step.”
Remarks to state-controlled television on April 5, 2021: “We will have no direct or indirect talks with the Americans in Vienna. We will negotiate with the Joint Commission and the P4+1 and will announce our demand and condition for returning to compliance with the JCPOA. We demand that the United States first fulfill all of its obligations and lift all the sanctions it has imposed, and then we will verify and return.”
“Our talks with the P4+1 in Vienna will be completely technical and they will be about the sanctions that should be lifted, the measures that should be done and the sequencing of what Americans should do. There must be verification.”
Remarks at a virtual meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission on April 2, 2021: “Iran will stop its remedial nuclear measures immediately after it verifies the lifting of sanctions.”
“The United States can get back to the deal and put an end to law-breaking in the same way as it left the JCPOA and imposed unlawful sanctions against Iran.”
President Hassan Rouhani
During a cabinet meeting on April 14, 2021: “Why are some afraid of negotiations and talks? We are strong even if we negotiate with the United States. As we negotiated in the JCPOA and showed them their place.”
“The Iranian nation is also capable in the field of production, advanced technologies, soft power and negotiation, because we have a strong logic with which we can teach the enemies a lesson.”
“So do not be afraid of the Vienna talks. Some are afraid. They are worried that these negotiations would yield results soon and the sanctions would be lifted immediately, and therefore they may face problems in the elections. Negotiation has its own complexities.”
“We are not in a hurry for negotiations and this depends on the other side. We are ready and we have made it clear. We say that the United States must implement the same conditions that we agreed upon according to Resolution 2231.”
“Therefore, we have made it clear. As soon as the United States implements them and we see that it is right and operational, we will immediately return to all our commitments.”
During a cabinet meeting on April 7, 2021: “Today we are witnessing a new chapter in the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and all the countries that were committed to the JCPOA have gathered in Vienna. They have come to the conclusion that there is no better solution than the JCPOA and there is no other way but the full implementation of the deal, and this is a great success for Iran.”
“Despite all the pressure, the enemy could not break our economy, and today they explicitly say that their actions have failed and that they have no choice but to negotiate.”
“Of course, we need to evaluate the honesty of the Americans in practice, but today the legitimacy of the Iranian nation is revealed to the world and there is no doubt about the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities.”
Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi
During a Clubhouse discussion on April 2, 2021: “No one can say negotiation between Iran and the U.S. is banned forever. This wall of mistrust can be broken to some extent in economic and scientific fields, among others.”
“Slowly the dead-end [between the United States and Iran on who recommits to the deal] is being resolved.”
“When you enter the technical phase, it means the ‘who goes first’ is not anymore an issue.”
“Tehran needs two to three months to reverse its measures and return to its commitments [under the JCPOA].”
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh
Interview on CNN’s Amanpour on April 9, 2021: “Vienna talks showed that progress is possible. And the positive momentum which has been created by 4+1 and Iran can be sustained if the United States is ready to fulfill its obligation under the resolution, United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231.
“At the same time, we are in a delicate situation. It seems that there are there are those inside the current United States administration that are much more committed to Trump's sanction than President Obama's nuclear deal.”
“Iran has paved the way to preserve the deal. The United States knows exactly what Iran has done to preserve the deal. And we think that the United States has to first remove all the sanctions verifiably and open the verification.
“Iran is ready to not only stop its remedial measures taken to respond to the sanctions by -- imposed by the United States, but also to reverse.”
“What we are doing right now in 4+1, plus Iran and the E.U. as the coordinator of the JCPOA, as we call it, the built-in mechanism in the deal, joint commission, is to identify the list of sanctions, the full list of sanctions that the United States should actually remove.”
“Whether Iran and United States can again talk, it depends if the United States get back to the deal and on the table, JCPOA table, when everybody is present. Then we can continue.”
“And all the sanctions imposed by the United States is very much related to the JCPOA. And it is not hidden that all the officials under Trump, were arguing that they're going to make it impossible or make it very much difficult for any other administration to get back to full compliance.
“So we do believe that any sanctions imposed by Trump should be removed. It doesn't matter if it is relabeled or reimposed or actually imposed. Everything should get back to January 2017.”
“I assume that you know better than me that no country on Earth compromise on its national security and national -- and missiles is actually our defense, the issue of our defense. So, nobody is going to talk about that.
“If our neighbors are ready to talk about 100 billions of -- quote, unquote – ‘beautiful military"’-- American military equipment put in our region, if United States is ready to stop this, and if the other sides are ready to talk about those issues, it's a matter of time. We have to wait and see.”
In interview with @camanpour, clarified that @POTUS has a choice to make:— Saeed Khatibzadeh (@SKhatibzadeh) April 10, 2021
He can stick with Obama's deal. Or he can cling to Trump's sanctions, incl those anti-JCPOA designations with faux labels.
What he can't do is to simultaneously pursue both.https://t.co/4Ud6NLhr5g pic.twitter.com/FGtbiDEFij
During a press briefing on April 5, 2021: “The agenda of this [JCPOA joint] commission meeting is the removal of all U.S. cruel sanctions against Iran, and in other words, clarification of how parties [to the deal] should fulfill their commitments.”
“In other words, we have only one step and not step-by-step [lifting of sanctions], and this one step includes the lifting of all sanctions imposed by the United States. In return, Iran will be ready to reverse its remedial measures, which were taken because of the opposite sides' violation of the treaty.”
“If we could reach an agreement with the P4+1 and they could guarantee that US would comply with its commitments, then the way forward would be open.”
“There have been, and will not be, any direct or indirect talks with any American side in Vienna or anywhere else.”
“The Foreign Ministry has contacted all state bodies and organizations about sanctions that must be lifted.... [During the talks on April 6] all U.S. sanctions will be put forth and all those sanctions must be lifted followed by verification. The Islamic Republic of Iran will discuss technical aspects of verification with the P4+1.”
Remarks to Press TV on April 3, 2021: “As has been clearly stated many times, no step-by-step plan is being considered [for returning to compliance with the JCPOA].”
“The definitive policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is the lifting of all U.S. sanctions, whether those which Trump reimposed after withdrawing from the JCPOA or those which he initiated, as well as sanctions imposed under any other heading.”
Government Spokesperson Ali Rabiei
Remarks to reporters on April 6, 2021: “We are not optimistic nor pessimistic about the outcome of this meeting now, but we are confident that we are on the right track, and if America’s will, seriousness and honesty is proven, it could be a good sign for a better future for this agreement and ultimately its full implementation."
U.N. Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi
Iran & P4+1 resuming nuclear talks in Vienna today.— Majid Takht Ravanchi (@TakhtRavanchi) April 6, 2021
The US has so far failed to honor @POTUS campaign promise to rejoin the JCPOA. So this opportunity shouldn't be wasted.
If US lifts all sanctions, Iran will then cease all remedial measures.
Can be win-win situation for all.