French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Iran to resume talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers but Iran's new hard-line president, Ebrahim Raisi, says that Iran's "rights" must first be guaranteed.
Macron "called on Iran to quickly resume negotiations in Vienna to reach a conclusion and to put an end, without delay, to all nuclear activities that violate the agreement," the French presidency said on August 9 after Macron spoke by phone with Raisi, who took office last week.
According to the Iranian presidency's website, Raisi said in the hourlong phone call that "in any negotiation, the rights of the Iranian people must be upheld and the interests of our nation ensured."
The nuclear deal was signed by Hassan Rohani, the relatively moderate Iranian president who could not seek reelection earlier this year after two terms in office.
The accord, whose parties also included the United States, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China, set an easing of sanctions against Tehran in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
But U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed crippling financial sanctions.
Trump at the time said Iran was not adhering to the spirit of the deal, accusing it of attempting to build nuclear weapons and of supporting extremist activity in the region. Iran denied the charges.
After Washington pulled out of the deal, Tehran responded by walking back measures it had agreed to under the accord.
Negotiators have been meeting since April in Vienna to seek a way to bring both sides back into full compliance, with the last round taking place on June 20.
A senior European Union official said on August 7 that Iran was ready to resume the talks as soon as early September, Western news agencies reported.
AFP and the dpa said that representatives of the country had given assurances in recent days that the Vienna talks will be resumed, according to the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said the EU's negotiator on the matter, Enrique Mora, attended the swearing-in of Raisi in Tehran last week, speaking there with the Iranian official designated to lead the talks, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
The EU official said Amir-Abdollahian was slated to be foreign minister in Raisi's cabinet, but the move has not yet been announced.
The Iranians said they wanted to get back to the negotiating table "as soon as possible -- not just for talks but to achieve an agreement. They want a success," the EU official said.
The United States on August 5 urged Iran to return to talks on reviving the nuclear deal after the new Iranian president said he would seek a diplomatic way to end sanctions.
"We urge Iran to return to the negotiations soon," U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a news briefing. "For us, this is an urgent priority."
Raisi, who is expected to consolidate the power of ultraconservatives during his four-year term, called for a lifting of the sanctions during his inauguration speech earlier on August 5.
The EU official told the news agencies that it was not clear whether the nuclear talks would remain under the responsibility of the Iranian Foreign Ministry or be taken over by the country's National Security Council or another body.
"The EU would like Iran to freeze the nuclear activities," the EU official said, but he admitted that Moscow and Beijing did not back its language on that position.
Complicating the matter, tensions have risen recently between Iran and the West, notably with an attack by drones last week on an Israeli-linked tanker off Oman that killed a Briton and a Romanian on board.
The G7 -- the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan -- blamed the attack on Iran. Tehran denies the accusation.
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Without the United States agreeing first to lift the sanctions, Iran won’t even negotiate with the Biden administration. On the other hand, the United States won’t lift the sanctions without Iran agreeing to renegotiate the nuclear deal and therein lies the problem.
From the United States’ point of view and its allies’, renegotiating the deal means Iran’s relinquishing its nuclear and ballistic missile development programmes which Iran will never do.
That is why a lifting of US sanctions against Iran won’t see the light of day soon or ever. The reason is that the positions of the United States and Iran are irreconcilable.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London