Iran signals progress in talks on United States’ return to nuclear deal

Accord of 2015 was abandoned by the Trump administration three years later

Iran's negotiator has said "there is agreement on the final goals" in the Vienna talks on the return of the United States to the 2015 agreement with Tehran to limit its nuclear programme in exchange for ending sanctions.

"We think that the talks have reached a stage where parties are able to begin work on a joint draft" of a plan for US re-entry and Iran's return to compliance, said Abbas Araghchi.

He said Tehran had submitted proposals which could be the basis of a final deal. The EU and Russia also hailed the progress achieved.

The signatories to the deal – Iran, Britain, France, Russia , China and Germany – are set to begin their third week of deliberations with the aim of reviving the accord, abandoned by the Trump administration in 2018.


No longer a party to the deal, the US is not involved in the multiparty talks but is consulted by EU envoy Enrique Mora, who shuttles between delegations. He said progress had been made in what was "a far from easy task. We now need more detailed work". This is being carried out by separate committees dealing with Iran's breaches and US sanctions.

Iran has ramped up pressure on the US and the Europeans to speed US compliance by enriching uranium to 60 per cent purity in retaliation for the April 11th sabotage of its Natanz nuclear plant. This has been blamed on Israel, which opposes the US return to the original agreement.

The new level of enrichment, three times higher than previously registered, brings Iran closer to the 90 per cent purity needed for weapons, and was confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

It closely monitors Iran’s nuclear activities and has, with Tehran’s permission, tracked its non-compliance in response to the US abrogation of the nuclear deal and reimposition of punitive sanctions.

The suspect

Iran’s higher enrichment level refutes Israeli media claims that the centrifuges at the Natanz plant were seriously damaged in the attack.

Without explaining who he is or why he had access to Natanz, Iran has named the suspect in the attack as Reza Karimi (43), who it says fled the country before the explosion. Tehran has asked Interpol to issue a "red notice" for his Mr Karimi's arrest.

While Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only, it stands accused of seeking to build bombs. However, a 2007 US national intelligence report stated that Iran ended its “nuclear weapon design and weaponisation work” in 2003.

It may be significant that this coincided with the US occupation of neighbouring Iraq, when Libya also halted nuclear weapons research.

An annual US intelligence report, released a week ago, reiterated that Iran is not currently seeking to build nuclear weapons.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times