Iranian minister plays down JCPOA expectations

  • : Crude oil
  • 21/05/26

Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi has moved to temper expectations of a quick breakthrough in the Vienna talks about the 2015 nuclear deal, saying that he is "not confident" the sticking points that remain can be overcome in the round of discussions that began yesterday.

"We have made progress on [overcoming our differences], but we are still not in a position to say that we will reach a clear solution for the key issues that remain," Araqchi said in Vienna late yesterday.

A breakthrough would see Iran scale back its nuclear activities to levels allowed under the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in return for a lifting of US sanctions on oil and banking that have put tremendous strain on Iran's economy and government finances.

"I am confident that we will be able to make more progress this time… [but] while it is possible, I have to repeat that I am not confident we will manage to conclude the negotiations this round," he said.

Araqchi was speaking after a meeting of the joint commission of the JCPOA, which brings together all remaining parties to the deal — Iran, Russia, China and the E3 countries of Germany, France and the UK. US negotiators have been involved in the talks since they began early last month, but have only engaged with the Iranians indirectly via the EU and other participants.

Araqchi's comments came after bullish statements from Tehran late last week, when Iran's President Hassan Rohani said the US had already "agreed" to lift all major economic sanctions on Iran, and that only "small details" remained to be overcome.

"There are still some issues that we are discussing to reach the final agreement," Rohani said. "But the main issues — the oil sanctions, the sanctions on petrochemicals, on shipping, on insurance, on the central bank, on the banking sector etc… they have agreed to all these."

The toughest obstacle in the talks has been addressing those sanctions that the previous US government imposed on Iran between 2018 and 2020, which the current administration in Washington has described as "poison pills" designed to sabotage any return to the JCPOA. While Iran continues to insist that all these sanctions need to be lifted, Washington has so far said that it would only remove those that prevent the smooth functioning of Iran's economy, which would include removing the 'terrorism' labels imposed on Iran's central bank, state-owned NIOC and other oil sector entities.

But the US has serious reservations over lifting the same label from Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a paramilitary force with extensive political and economy interests.

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