Vienna – The sixth round of negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file, like its predecessors, ended with an overdose of optimism and a promise of a new round, the date of which was not set, with the participating parties affirming that 11 weeks of negotiations were not in vain, and that great progress had been achieved and the areas of understanding expanded significantly.
However, does this mean that the seventh round will witness the signing of an agreement? not exactly; All statements were made in the form of “yes, but”. The negotiators talk about approaching the agreement, but they acknowledge that there are difficult issues that have not yet been resolved, and that the agreement needs a political decision from the participating capitals. Read also Nuclear Iran.. Tehran rejects any additional conditions in Vienna and Washington still sees the agreement as far away Raisi’s access to power in Iran .. Does it affect the Vienna negotiations? There is no timetable for her next tour.. The White House: The Vienna talks are in our national interest and securityأShe accused her of meddling in its affairs.. Tehran condemns Washington’s position on the presidential elections
Prior to the end of the sixth round of negotiations, the chief Iranian negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, told Al Jazeera Net that the agreement was no closer than it is now.
He added – in a message of reassurance to the negotiators after the end of the round – that Tehran’s policies will not change under the administration of President-elect Ibrahim Raisi, who will take office next August, and said that he is a “realistic and rational person.”
For Araqchi, the Iranian position is not linked to changing governments, but to calculations of the national interest.
He also confirms that the difficult part of the talks is still going on, and that Iran will not sign any agreement unless it obtains guarantees that the experience of former US President Donald Trump will not be repeated with any subsequent US administration. He added that Iran is not interested in anything that does not meet its ambitions, so either a good agreement or “no agreement.”
On the other hand, the American position did not differ much. Just before the end of the last round of negotiations, and with signs of Ibrahim Raisi’s victory appearing, The US State Department spokesman said that negotiations are on the right track, and that the United States wants to sign an agreement within the next six weeks, that is, before handing over power to the new Iranian president.
But the same American spokesman returned after the end of the sixth round to talk about the difficulties that have not yet been overcome in the capital, Vienna.
As for the European Union, which is sponsoring the negotiations, its representative in the negotiations, Enrique Mora, spoke of important progress achieved.
But the High Commissioner for Foreign Policy Josep Borrell greatly softened the tone of optimism when he announced, the day after the end of the sixth round of Luxembourg, the great difficulties facing the negotiations.
Similar to the statements oscillating between caution and optimism, the statements of the rest of the diplomats came, including the Russian representative to international organizations, Mikhail Ulyanov, and the Chinese representative, Wong Kun.
The main differences
It appears that the negotiating parties have already made progress on a range of contentious issues. Among the most important is the issue of US sanctions imposed on Iran, as it was agreed to lift sanctions targeting the oil, banking, automobile and insurance sectors.
For the Iranians, this is an important step and means pumping new blood into the veins of their economy, and it is a necessary condition for the success of negotiations from the Iranian point of view.
When diplomats are asked what is hindering a solution as long as these issues have been agreed upon, the answer usually comes that “we don’t want to go into details,” or “we will not negotiate in front of the cameras,” as stated by Abbas Araqchi, Enrique Mora and Mikhail Ulyanov.
Who takes the first step?
Away from the spotlight, close sources talk about two main issues that “poison” the atmosphere of the negotiations; The first is the US sanctions imposed on some important Iranian figures, including the Iranian guide, the elected president himself, Ibrahim Raisi, and about 128 other personalities. and sanctions imposed on key bodies and entities such as the Revolutionary Guards.
The United States does not show much flexibility in this regard. Rather, it stresses that these sanctions do not fall within the context of the nuclear agreement, but were imposed in the context of accusations of terrorism and human rights violations against Iran, in addition to Iran’s activities in the Middle East. On the other hand, the Iranian negotiator sees no room for an agreement without lifting these sanctions.
The issue of guarantees also comes as one of the sticking points. According to European diplomatic sources, the Iranian negotiator says he does not want to repeat the experience of the 2015 agreement that the Trump administration abandoned in 2018.
Tehran says it can monitor compliance with its commitments through the International Atomic Energy Agency, but no one is entrusted with monitoring US compliance.
In the same context, Tehran believes that the American signature of the agreement is not sufficient, and that the actual implementation of the agreement is necessary. It requires the United States to take the first step on the basis that “whoever goes out first will return first.”
Not only that, but it also requires the return of its oil to the international market, and the effective lifting of sanctions before any commitment on its part to its previous commitments.
The issues of sanctions and guarantees constitute a stumbling block that the parties have not yet been able to overcome. In fact, they reflect the climate of mistrust between Tehran and Washington, which further complicates and prolongs the negotiations.
The success of the Vienna negotiations is not related to reaching an agreement acceptable to both sides. There are also political calculations associated with marketing this agreement internally and externally, especially with the rise of a new president in Iran.
Iranian negotiators stress that the nuclear agreement is an issue of state and order, not an issue of two presidents. One is elected and the other is dismissed.
It is known that the Supreme Leader represents the main actor in formulating the equation on the Iranian side, but this did not prevent the US State Department spokesman and the Iranian Foreign Minister from hoping to sign the agreement before next August, that is, before the inauguration of Ibrahim Raisi.
European sources say that if an agreement is not signed before that, this means waiting for the formation of a new Iranian government and perhaps a new negotiating delegation, which will push the negotiations to the end of the year, which no one wants.
In sum, it can be said that the negotiations have made great progress at the technical level, while contentious issues have become clear, but the agreement needs a political decision.
Perhaps this is what prompted Araqchi to say that this time the delegations will return to the capitals to take a decision, not just to consult.
This explains that the delegations parted ways this time without specifying the date of the next round, as was the custom. Only the Russian delegate expected the parties to return to Vienna in 10 days.