On Thursday, US media reported that the Biden administration was considering a “near wholesale rollback” of Trump-era Iran sanctions related to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in a bid to end the months-long standoff over which side makes concessions first to restore the nuclear agreement to full working order.
Iran and the United States have reached an agreement in principle on lifting the majority of sanctions against individuals and institutions, including the country’s oil and banking sectors, the Fars News Agency reports, citing comments made by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator.
“Sanctions…on Iran’s energy sector, which include oil and gas, or those on the automotive industry, financial, banking and port sanctions, all should be lifted based on agreements reached so far,” Araghchi was quoted as saying.“We will negotiate until the two sides’ positions come closer and our demands are met. If they are met, there will be an agreement. If not there will naturally be no agreement,” he added.
In a separate statement on his Telegram account, Araghchi wrote that negotiations on the nuclear deal at the ongoing Vienna talks had slowed, but that Saturday’s talks helped clear up some issues.
“The discussions became clearer, the disagreements became more understandable and transparent…On some issues, we began to work on the text [of the agreement], and the process slowed down considerably.”
Earlier on Saturday, Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s representative to international organisations in Vienna, tweeted that “indisputable progress” had been made in the talks, and indicated that the Joint Commission of the JCPOA would reconvene at the end of next week.
“At which stage the Vienna talks on JCPOA restoration are? It’s too early to be excited, but we have reasons for cautious and growing optimism,” Ulyanov added. “There is no deadline, but participants aim at successful completion of the talks in approximately three weeks. Is it realistic? We will see.”
Araghchi’s remarks may signal a major breakthrough in the standoff between Tehran and Washington on the restoration of the nuclear agreement, and a blow to hawks in Washington and America’s Israeli allies – who have sought to prevent the restoration of the treaty at all costs. They also potentially indicate a major softening of the Biden administration’s previous rhetoric on the JCPOA – including demands that Tehran dramatically reduce its nuclear enrichment activities before Washington would even entertain any possibility of lifting sanctions.
Officials indicated that restrictions to be lifted might even include those slapped on the country by the Trump administration related to terrorism, the country’s missile programme, or alleged human rights abuses, if it was deemed that Trump imposed them in an improper manner or in a way deliberately designed to bury the JCPOA forever.
The Islamic Republic has recently softened its own position on the sanctions rollback, replacing wording demanding that “all sanctions” be removed with the wording that all sanctions introduced after the JCPOA was signed be scrapped. Speaking to Press TV on Thursday, Araghchi indicated that Iran was coordinating its position with Russia and China.
The Vienna talks, which feature negotiators from the remaining parties to the JCPOA, including Iran, Russia, China, the UK, France, Germany, and the European Union, plus negotiators from the United States situated in a separate location and communicated with via intermediaries, are aimed at ending the long standoff between Tehran and Washington on the nuclear deal, which began when Joe Biden took office in January.