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Iran says Vienna talks on ‘good path’

Iranian media and officials have expressed optimism over the latest round of nuclear talks.
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani speaks to the press in front of Palais Coburg, venue for the JCPOA meeting that aims to revive the Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna on Dec. 27, 2021.

With the resumption of the nuclear negotiations in Vienna, Iranian officials and media have been signaling that the talks are headed in a positive direction and remaining issues can be solved by February.

An article headlined “Positive signs from all sides” in the economic newspaper Donya-e Eqtesad captured many of the optimistic readings coming out of Vienna by the negotiators. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Dec. 28 to reporters that negotiators are engaged in addressing points in which there are differences. He added that “reaching an agreement soon and in the near future is imaginable.” 

Headlines in Reformist media, which was always supportive of the nuclear deal, also suggested an agreement is close. Ebtekar wrote that the “smell of an agreement is coming from Vienna.” Etemad wrote that “the negotiations to revive the nuclear deal have sped up.” 

Even hardline media, which opposed the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, have covered the latest round of talks optimistically. Javan newspaper, which is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), titled their coverage “The possibility of an agreement in February.” The positive coverage was based on comments made by Russia’s and China’s top diplomats at the talks.

The United States, which is not part of these talks due to its 2018 exit of the deal under former President Donald Trump, has not been as quick to embrace the positive narrative coming from Iranian, Russian and Chinese officials. Ned Price, spokesperson for the US State Department, told reporters, “It’s really too soon to tell if Iran has returned with a more constructive approach to this round.” He added that Special Envoy Rob Malley is also “leading an interagency delegation” in the eighth round of talks. 

Price said that while there may be progress made at these talks, it “is falling short of Iran’s accelerating nuclear steps.” In response to the US exit of the JCPOA and the reapplication of international sanctions that restrict Iran’s ability to sell its oil and bars the country from conducting banking transactions, Iran revived parts of its nuclear program to pre-deal levels. 

While there is some positive news coming out of Vienna, Iran has continued to blame European countries, which are indirectly representing the United States, for delays in progress in the nuclear talks. The latest official to blame a European country is Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission member Ali Aghazadeh, who accused the UK of trying to “disrupt” the nuclear talks. The UK recently issued a statement condemning the IRGC for conducting military drills in the Persian Gulf. 

Despite the progress of the talks, which will require Iran to reduce its nuclear program, particularly enrichment levels, Iranian officials have insisted that they will continue to keep parts of the nuclear program and put it to use. Mohammad Eslami, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said that they will soon begin plans at the national level “using nuclear technology to improve the quality of food and industrial products.”