June 6, 2023

Negotiations between Iran and the United States to revive the 2015 nuclear deal are nearing completion, but it was unclear whether Tehran would accept the final deal, the EU’s top negotiator said late on Sunday.

The negotiating coordinator, the European Union’s Henrique Mora, said the text of the agreement could be finalized within the next few hours. However, Iran still has to decide whether to shelve its demands that the nuclear deal be revived only after a multi-year investigation by the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency on its nuclear program ends.

“We are negotiating some technical issues that are disclosed in the text,” Mr Mora told reporters in Vienna. “We are moving forward, and I expect we will conclude this negotiation soon.”

The final text needs to be ratified by Iran, the US and other negotiators, Russia, China, France, the UK and Germany. Senior negotiators from France, Britain and Germany are currently not in Vienna.

Negotiations in Vienna, which have dragged on for 16 months, are aimed at agreeing on steps Washington and Tehran must take to return to compliance with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal.

The 2015 deal set strict but temporary limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions on Tehran. The Trump administration removed the United States from the deal in May 2018, saying it would not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. A year later, Iran began violating the nuclear restrictions in the agreement and has since ramped up its nuclear activities on a massive scale.

Negotiations came close to a deal in March, but then stalled for months. But talks resumed on Thursday after Iran softened one of its remaining demands: lifting terror sanctions on its elite Revolutionary Guard.

The talks took place at Vienna’s Coburg Palace.


Florian Schroeder/Associated Press

However, Iran insisted during talks last week that a three-year investigation by the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency into undeclared nuclear material found in the country must be shut down if the nuclear deal is resumed. Several Western diplomats said on Sunday that Tehran had doubled down on the situation during talks over the past few days, but there was no agreement on the issue.

The investigation into man-made nuclear material found in Iran is highly sensitive for Tehran, which has long claimed it never sought nuclear weapons. Iran blocked the investigation and gave answers that the agency said were not credible.

However, Western officials have said Iran needs to cooperate with the IAEA and insist they will not intervene to end the investigation or set a fixed deadline for the agency’s work.

A Western diplomat said the text of the deal under development would not include a reference to Iran’s demands to shut down the nuclear probe.

On Monday, there will be no formal talks due to Iran’s Ashura festival. However, the goal is to have the final text ready for a final decision in the next few days. It is unclear whether Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Baghrikani will first return to Tehran for consultations with Iranian leaders.

Russia’s chief negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov told reporters on Sunday that “we are talking about days, not weeks” to get the deal done.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdallahian also said on Sunday that the success of nuclear talks depends on Washington showing flexibility in the negotiations.

“We are serious about reaching a solid and stable agreement,” he said in a conversation with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, according to Iran’s foreign ministry. “Of course, the outcome depends on whether the United States wants an agreement, and Will it exhibit the necessary flexibility and realism in practice.”

write to Lawrence Norman at laurence.norman@wsj.com

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