Chief European negotiator Enrique Mora said the next round of negotiations, the eighth so far, will see diplomats “meet to discuss and define the way ahead.”
The seventh round of talks ended last week with after Iran’s chief negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, decided to return to Tehran for consultations. Bagheri Kani said that the talks will resume in a “few days” according to Iranian state media.
Representatives from Germany, France and Britain, however, said in a statement while they respected Bagheri Kani’s decision, it brought about a “disappointing pause in negotiations.” The US and Iran do not negotiate directly at these talks.
Western negotiators are worried that time is running out to resuscitate the accord, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
European negotiators warned last week that the benefits of the 2015 nuclear deal will be lost in “weeks” rather than “months,” and the US Special Envoy for Iran told CNN Tuesday that if Tehran “continue at their current pace, we have some weeks left but not much more than that, at which point, I think, the conclusion will be that there’s no deal to be revived,” he said.
“At some point in the not-so-distant future, we will have to conclude that the JCPOA is no more, and we’d have to negotiate a wholly new different deal, and of course we’d go through a period of escalating crisis,” Malley said.
The JCPOA saw Iran agree to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from punishing economic sanctions. Former President Donald Trump viewed the deal as flawed and withdrew from it, prompting Iran to push forward with its nuclear program. Iran agreed in October to resume dialogue.
The Biden administration has said it is willing to return to the deal, but is “preparing for a world in which there is no return” to the landmark agreement, a senior State Department official acknowledged earlier this month. US officials have insisted that an agreement must be predicated on mutual compliance. Iranian officials insist on the immediate removal of all sanctions before reversing any of its nuclear progress.
“We are prepared with a system where both sides will know who is going to do what, when, and we’re prepared to negotiate that,” Malley said.
US and European officials have expressed strong concerns that Iran has not made “serious” proposals to return to adherence to the deal. Malley said it appeared Iran was “trying to build leverage by expanding their nuclear program and hoping to use that leverage to get a better deal,”
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Iran’s proposals “deserve to be analyzed” despite being adversely received by Western participants initially.
“Iran’s team is new, but they adapted quickly and professionally. They prepared proposals that some Western participants didn’t take well at first but then admitted that they deserve to be analyzed,” Lavrov said in an interview with Russia Today shared by the Russian Mission in Vienna.