The special envoy of United States for IranRobert Malley said on Sunday that he was not confident that a nuclear deal between world powers and the Islamic Republic was imminent, clouding expectations after 11 months of talks in Vienna that have stalled.
The failure of efforts to restore a 2015 agreement, which would curb the nuclear program of Tehran In exchange for lifting sanctions that have hit Iran’s economy, it risks escalating political tensions in the Middle East and further driving up world oil prices. Petroleum, analysts say.
“I can’t be sure it’s imminent… A few months ago we thought we were pretty close too,” Malley told the Doha Forum international conference.
“In any negotiation, when there are issues that stay open for so long, it tells you something about how difficult it is to bridge the gap.”
His assessment of the negotiations in Vienna came after Kamal Kharrazi, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said a deal could soon be reached.
“Yes, it is imminent. It depends on the political will of the United States,” Kharrazi told the conference.
The then US president donald trump abandoned the nuclear pact in 2018, prompting Tehran to begin breaking nuclear limits set out in the deal. Months of on-and-off talks to revive the deal were delayed earlier this month because Russia wanted assurances that it would be able to carry out its work as part of the deal.
But there are still pending questions. Kharrazi said that for the agreement to be revived, Washington should remove the foreign terrorist organization (FTO) designation against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The IRGC, created by the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, is more than just a military force and has enormous political influence. It was placed under sanctions in 2017 and placed on the FTO list in April 2019.
“IRGC is a national army and a national army listed as a terrorist group is certainly not acceptable,” Kharrazi said.
Malley said that regardless of what happens, many sanctions against the IRGC will remain.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urged the US to heed calls against removing the Revolutionary Guards from the US terrorism blacklist.
“We are concerned about the intention to delist the IRGC,” Bennett told Blinken. “I hope that the United States will listen to the concerned voices in the region, Israel and others, on this very important issue.”
Iran seeks US guarantee
Tehran has been pressing for guarantees that any future president of USA it will not withdraw from the deal and the extent to which sanctions will be reversed is another unresolved issue.
US allies in the Gulf and Israel believe Iran is a security threat and have deep doubts about the talks.
Israel and the United States will continue to cooperate to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, Israel’s foreign minister said on Sunday.
“We have disagreements about a nuclear deal and its consequences, but open and honest dialogue is part of the strength of our friendship,” Yair Lapid said in Jerusalem during a joint news conference with US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken.
Blinken said going back to the 2015 deal was the best way to contain Iran’s nuclear program.
But whether that happens or not, “our commitment to the core principle that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon is unwavering,” he said.
The issue is likely to dominate a two-day summit in Israel that will include foreign ministers from three Arab states.
In Tehran, EU envoy Enrique Mora, who is the coordinator of the talks, met with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani on Sunday to discuss outstanding issues in the nuclear talks.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told Mora at a meeting that “the lack of a US political decision is the current obstacle we have to achieving results in the Vienna talks,” according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
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