The European Union on Monday said it put forward a “final” text to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as four days of indirect talks between U.S. and Iranian officials wrapped up in Vienna.
“What can be negotiated has been negotiated, and it’s now in a final text. However, behind every technical issue and every paragraph lies a political decision that needs to be taken in the capitals,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted.
“If these answers are positive, then we can sign this deal,” he added as EU, Iranian and U.S. prepared to leave Vienna.
Earlier, a senior EU official told reporters that no more changes could be made to the text, which has been under negotiation for 15 months, and said he expected a final decision from the parties within a “very, very few weeks.”
“It is a package proposal. … You cannot agree with page 20 and disagree with page 50. You have to say yes or no,” he said.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said Washington was ready to quickly reach an agreement to revive the deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on the basis of the EU proposals.
Iranian officials suggested that they did not regard the EU proposals as final, saying they would convey their “additional views and considerations” to the European Union, which coordinates the talks, after consultations in Tehran.
Iran has also made demands the United States and other Western powers view as outside the scope of reviving the deal.
For example, Iran has insisted the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, drop its claims Iran has failed to fully explain uranium traces at undeclared sites.
Each side sought to put the onus on the other to compromise.
“They (the Iranians) repeatedly say they are prepared for a return to mutual implementation of the JCPOA. Let’s see if their actions match their words,” the U.S. spokesperson said.
Iran and six major powers struck the original accord in 2015 under which it agreed to restrict its nuclear program to make it harder to use it to develop atomic weapons — an ambition it denies — in return for relief from U.S., EU and U.N. sanctions.
In 2018, then U.S. President Donald Trump ditched the deal and reimposed harsh U.S. sanctions designed to choke off Iran’s oil exports, its major source of export income and government revenue.
In response, Tehran — which says its nuclear program is for power generation and other peaceful purposes — began about a year later to breach the agreement in several ways, including rebuilding stocks of enriched uranium.
It has also enriched uranium to 60% purity — far above the 3.67% that is permitted under the deal but below the 90% that is regarded as weapons grade.
U.S. President Joe Biden has sought to revive the agreement since he took office in January 2021 and negotiations — indirect because Iran refuses to deal directly with the United States on the issue — began in Vienna in April 2021.
Iran has also sought to obtain guarantees that no future U.S. president would renege on the deal if it were revived, as Trump did in 2018. Washington cannot provide such ironclad assurances because the deal is a political understanding rather than a legally binding treaty.
Iranian state media hinted at this issue on Monday.
“The final agreement must ensure the rights and interests of the Iranian people and guarantee the effective and stable removal of sanctions,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told Borrell in a call, state media reported.