Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during the meeting of the National Combat Board with Coronavirus (Covid-19) on November 21, 2020 in Tehran, Iran.
Iranian Presidency Flyer | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
The United States and Iran will resume talks on Friday to restore confidence and bridge what Washington calls “enormous and profound differences” in bailing out their failed nuclear deal.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday at a cabinet meeting in Tehran that initial talks with the US and world powers in Vienna to save the agreement had been a “success”, which, according to a statement about him, marked a “new chapter” to save the Agreement opened official website.
Both countries described Tuesday’s indirect talks as a “useful step” and “constructive”, although neither of the representatives actually met in person. The officials chose instead to use European signatories of the treaty as mediators.
“We are not optimistic or pessimistic about the outcome of this meeting, but we are confident that we are on the right track,” said Ali Rabiei, an Iranian government spokesman. “The full implementation of this agreement will certainly be completed in the coming weeks,” he added.
Tehran is “all or nothing” in the talks. She wants Washington to guarantee the full lifting of Trump-era sanctions in order to scale back its enrichment activities. The Iranian side is also put under time pressure. Presidential elections are expected to take place in June this year, removing President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif from office.
Washington, however, is striving for a “compliance for compliance” approach, with President Joe Biden ruling out any “unilateral gestures”, but remains open to investigating how the US could also resume its own compliance with the agreement.
An early economic olive branch seems to have already failed. Iran describes a US proposal to release $ 1 billion in frozen oil money in exchange for Iran calling its uranium enrichment program “ridiculous”.
“The first problem these talks need to resolve is fundamentally disrupting the approach,” Kirsten Fontenrose of Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Wednesday.
“There’s nowhere to get until you square this circle,” she said.
Since the talks in Vienna are to be resumed on Friday, two working groups were set up to determine the negotiating framework. The first group focuses on the issue of American sanctions imposed by the Trump administration after it left the original deal in 2018.
The second group examines how Iran can be brought back within the limits set by the original JCPOA for the enrichment and storage of enriched uranium. Iran has repeatedly violated the terms of the agreement, worrying European and global signatories and fueling tensions among its neighbors in the Middle East.
The talks on Friday could create the conditions for more constructive talks or a full-blown showdown. In the past, Iran has used the first week of April to celebrate its “Nuclear Technology Day,” when the country’s nuclear achievements are showcased. The event was postponed last year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“This day is an opportunity for people to see that these years, despite economic pressures, have made great strides and achievements in the country’s nuclear technologies,” said President Rouhani.
Oil prices rebounded slightly when the first talks were concluded. A breakthrough could be bearish for crude oil, analysts say, if it increases the prospect of large volumes of Iranian oil exports returning to the market.
“If I were to sit at an oil trading desk, I would probably think that I was in a fairly safe room because it looks like this will continue as before,” said Fontenrose.
“We’re not going to bother much because we’re not close to getting Iranian oil back on the market, and we don’t see any big moves by Iran or the Gulf that would destabilize the flow of energy,” she added.