Long-running efforts to revive the landmark Iranian nuclear deal suffered an apparent setback after the United States said late Thursday that Iran’s latest proposal to revive the 2015 pact was “not constructive.”
“We can confirm that we have received Iran’s response through the EU,” State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a statement. “We are studying it and will respond through the EU, but unfortunately it is not constructive.”
The specifics of the Iranian response weren’t immediately clear. But on Friday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani insisted that Tehran had put forward “a constructive approach aimed at finalizing the negotiations.”
The United States and Iran have for weeks been trading feedback on what the European Union, which is mediating the indirect talks, described as a final proposal to revive the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, had described the initial responses from both Washington and Tehran as “reasonable,” and on Wednesday said that he hoped for an agreement “in the coming days.” French President Emmanuel Macron further raised speculation on Thursday, saying a deal could be concluded within days.
The latest back-and-forth comes after nearly a year and a half of intermittent negotiations to salvage the pact that former President Donald Trump quit in 2018. After the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran began steadily violating the accord, which set curbs on the purity and amount of Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile in exchange for international sanctions relief.
In recent weeks, diplomats have sounded more upbeat that an agreement could finally be within reach. US officials said gaps remained but that prospects for a renewed deal had improved after Iran made some concessions, including dropping its demand for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ removal from the US terrorism blacklist.
Asked whether further talks could be held to bridge the gaps between the two sides, an EU source told Al-Monitor on Monday that the parties would only return to Vienna for the purposes of adopting an agreement.
Congressional opponents of the JCPOA are meanwhile ramping up their criticism ahead of the November midterm elections. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to President Joe Biden outlining their concerns with the looming deal.