Blinken says nuclear talks halted because Iran ‘doesn’t seem serious’

Secretary reiterates that US won’t allow Tehran to drag out negotiations while advancing with its nuclear program and that Washington will pursue other options if talks fail

By JACOB MAGID3 December 2021, 11:11 pm  

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a press conference during an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meeting, in Stockholm, Sweden, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (Jonathan Nackstrand/Pool Photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a press conference during an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meeting, in Stockholm, Sweden, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (Jonathan Nackstrand/Pool Photo via AP)

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that this week’s round of negotiations between world powers and Iran in Vienna was halted because Tehran does not seem to be serious about reaching an agreement with the US that would see a joint return to compliance with the nuclear agreement.

“What we’ve seen in the last couple of days is that Iran right now does not seem to be serious about doing what’s necessary to return to compliance, which is why we ended this round of talks in Vienna,” Blinken told Reuters.

The secretary of state said the US would now consult with its allies, including Israel, on how best to move forward. “And we will see if Iran has any interest in engaging seriously, but the window is very, very tight.”

Blinken also reiterated a warning Washington had made numerous times in recent months, that the Biden administration will not allow Iran to drag out the negotiation process — already in its seventh round — all while advancing its nuclear program. “If the path to a return to compliance with the agreement turns out to be a dead-end, we will pursue other options,” Blinken said, while declining to detail what those options are.

He also noted that the sides had made “real progress” in the first six rounds of talks that were held before hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi entered office, leading to a major hiatus in the negotiations.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

The latest round of talks began on Monday between the E3 (Britain, France and Germany), Iran, China and Russia, with the United States participating indirectly. The talks were paused on Friday afternoon, for diplomats to consult with their governments while they evaluated two drafts submitted by Iran that appeared to undo all of the progress of previous rounds.

Some officials said talks would reconvene next week, while French President Emmanuel Macron warned there could be a longer break in the talks.

Blinken gave no timeframe for the pause in talks.

Earlier Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki also said that the US assessment from this week’s negotiations is that Iran is not interested in resolving nuclear issues and that a solution would require a commitment from Iran.

Diplomats are aiming to revive the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan on Action, which began unraveling in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and reimposed sanctions, prompting Iran to start exceeding limits on its nuclear program the following year.

European diplomats expressed “disappointment and concern” on Friday after five days of international negotiations in Vienna as Iran submitted two draft proposals that appeared to undo months of dialogue.

Senior diplomats from the E3 group expressed “disappointment and concern after thoroughly and carefully analyzing Iranian proposed changes to the text negotiated during the previous six rounds,” which took place earlier this year.

“Tehran is walking back almost all of the difficult compromises crafted after many months of hard work,” they said, adding that the Iranian delegation had demanded “major changes.”

They went on to say it was “unclear how these new gaps can be closed in a realistic timeframe.”

The diplomats said the delegations needed to “return to capitals to assess the situation and seek instructions, before reconvening next week to see whether gaps can be closed or not.”

“Our governments remain fully committed to a diplomatic way forward. But time is running out,” they said.

Iran said on Thursday it had submitted two draft proposals for the nuclear agreement.Iranian exiles and supporters of monarchy shout slogans during a demonstration near the Coburg palace during a meeting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna, on December 3, 2021. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

On Thursday, Iran’s lead negotiator Ali Bagheri said the proposals concerned two main issues facing the JCPOA.

“The first document sums up the Islamic republic’s point of view concerning the lifting of sanctions, while the second is about Iran’s nuclear actions,” Bagheri told state television.

“Now the other side must examine these documents and prepare itself to hold negotiations with Iran based on these documents.”

An E3 diplomat told Israel’s Walla news that the draft on sanctions relief was extreme and maximalist, with the Iranians increasing their sanctions relief demands in comparison to agreements reached with the Rouhani government last June.

The diplomat also told Walla that Iran had backtracked on the nuclear draft too, removing all the previously agreed compromise language on steps to roll back its nuclear program.

AFP contributed to this report

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