Updated Feb 16, 2022 - World

Iran says it's up to the Western powers to seal a nuclear deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. Photo: Iranian Foreign Ministry via Getty

The nuclear talks in Vienna appear to be in the final stretch, but the Iranian and Western negotiators both claim the ball is in the other's court.

What they're saying: Iran chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri wrote on Twitter Wednesday that "we are closer than ever to an agreement" but "our negotiating partners need to be realistic, avoid intransigence and heed lessons" of the past four years, adding: "Time for their serious decisions."

  • Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in the daily briefing that the talks in Vienna are entering "a decisive period". He stressed that "in the coming days" the Biden administration will determine whether Iran is willing to take the decisions needed to get back to the nuclear deal. 
  • French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also told Parliament on Wednesday that a return to the 2015 nuclear deal could be only days away, but that Iran still needed to make the key political decisions.
  • But Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in a phone call on Tuesday that while Iran’s initiatives in the talks had “brought the deal within reach,” the Western powers needed to act responsibly to get a final agreement, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

Between the lines: While Iranian officials have made public statements about the talks almost every day, and sometimes several times a day, there has been almost complete silence from the U.S., France, Germany and U.K. for the past two weeks.

In statements to the media in recent days, several Iranian officials have acknowledged that gaps remain in terms of the sanctions Iran wants to see lifted and on Iran's demand that the U.S. will not withdraw from the deal again in the future.

  • Amir-Abdollahian told the FT that Iran wants the U.S. Congress to issue a political statement committing to the nuclear deal. That's highly unlikely.
  • The Iranian foreign minister also said his country demands that all sanctions imposed by the Trump administration be lifted, even those that aren't linked to the nuclear program. The Biden administration has rejected that demand so far.

The other side: Israel recently sent a special envoy to the Vienna talks for the first time.

  • The Israeli envoy met with U.S. Iran envoy Rob Malley and the negotiators from other world powers in a last-ditch effort to influence the deal.
  • A senior Israeli official who spoke to reporters traveling with Bennett on Tuesday's visit to Bahrain said it was unclear whether the Ukraine crisis would influence the talks in Vienna.
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