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Iranian negotiators in Vienna as questions remain over IRGC delisting

The removal of the Revolutionary Guards from the US list of foreign terrorist organizations continues to play a central role in the debates surrounding the revival of the Iran nuclear deal.    
ALEX HALADA/AFP via Getty Images

Iranian negotiators landed in the Austrian capital Vienna for a new round of indirect talks with their US counterparts to try to restore the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The talks are also attended by representatives from other JCPOA parties, namely Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Iran's chief negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, held separate meetings with Russian envoy Mikhail Ulyanov and EU coordinator Enrique Mora.

The new round was launched following an EU initiative seeking to unlock the impasse in the talks that has lingered since March.

As negotiators arrived, speculation was rife on the details and the type of concessions Iran and the United States could offer as part of the EU proposal. On Thursday, reports suggested that the Iranian side had agreed to drop its demand that the United States remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from its list of foreign terrorist organizations. The issue has been a sticking point and a brake on progress in the previous rounds of talks.

However, the official outlet of the Iranian government, the IRNA, dismissed the news as "baseless." Citing an "informed source" within the negotiating team, IRNA reported that the Islamic Republic has "demonstrated its goodwill" in the talks and maintains serious resolve to reach a deal. "The ball is now in America's court, and if they are after an agreement with Iran, they should act with responsibility and seize the chance that the other parties have offered them," the source was quoted as saying.

Iran's moderate factions have long urged the hard-line government to press ahead with diplomatic initiatives to resurrect the JCPOA for the sake of the country's sanctions-hit economy. On Thursday, leading Reformist dailies Arman-e-Emrouz and Aftab-e-Yazd described the fresh round of the talks as a "last effort" by the European Union to salvage the JCPOA. The Iranian negotiators, Bagheri Kani in particular, have faced accusations at home of protracting the talks and adhering to a rigidly unaccommodating approach.

Ahead of the talks, Bagheri Kani declared that the new round will test the American side's willingness to proceed. "The purpose behind the talks is to set conditions for the return of the United States to the JCPOA," he said. "Therefore, America cannot set conditions for the Islamic Republic, which is already a JCPOA signatory."