Iran’s foreign ministry said today the country is committed to finding a diplomatic solution to its nuclear dispute with the US and European countries, but said it is “not optimistic” the negotiations with Washington to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement will bear fruit.
Tehran and Washington began talks in Vienna in April 2021 aimed at reviving the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which former US President Donald Trump reneged on in 2018 before he reimposed sanctions on Iran’s banking and energy sectors. After good signs of progress earlier this year, the negotiations stalled some months ago over several points of contention primarily concerning the extent of US sanctions relief for Iran should the deal be revived.
“Iran believes that the diplomatic process is the best process to secure the interests of the negotiating parties in connection with the JCPOA,” foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said. “But we are not optimistic about the current trend [of the discussions]. We have always been realistic, and we will remain that way… [but at the moment] we are pessimistic.”
Kanaani’s comments mark a change in tone from Tehran, which has for several months pushed against negative assessments of the diplomatic process made by Iran’s western counterparts. The EU high representative for foreign affairs Josep Borrell said earlier this month that things are “not evolving in the right direction,” and the US State Department in October said nuclear diplomacy with Iran “is not our focus right now.”
The stalemate is being complicated further as both sides raise the stakes.
Last week Iran said it had begun enriching uranium to 60pc purity at its Fordow nuclear site, in response to a resolution passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors urging Tehran to co-operate with a long-standing investigation into uranium traces it found at three undeclared Iranian nuclear sites. This is the first time enrichment would reach such a level at Fordow, although enrichment to 60pc purity has been happening at Iran’s other site, Natanz, since the first half of 2021.
The US, EU, and UK, meanwhile, have been imposing new sanctions on a host of Iranian individuals and entities for their involvement in the production and supply of drones to Russia for use against Ukraine, and in what they deem the “violent repression” of Iranian protests sparked by the death in September of a woman while in police custody. Kanaani reiterated today Tehran’s position is that the protests are being stirred up and backed by foreign elements. He said again that the foreign ministry has been in touch with the countries involved to inform them of the role their citizens had been playing.