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Iran nuclear talks set to resume on Thursday

Negotiations with Iran ended on a pessimistic note on Friday, with European and US diplomats saying Tehran had backtracked on previous compromises
A handout photo released on 3 December 2021 by the EU delegation in Vienna shows representatives from Iran and the EU attending the nuclear negotiations in Austria.
A handout photo released on 3 December 2021 by the EU delegation in Vienna shows representatives from Iran and the EU attending the nuclear negotiations in Austria (AFP)

Nuclear talks with Iran will restart on Thursday in Vienna, the European Union lead coordinator for the negotiations has stated.

Enrique Mora, who is chairing the talks, said on Wednesday that diplomats would resume discussions after "consultations in and among capitals" of the parties involved. 

The announcement - on Twitter - came as US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley planned to depart for Vienna in the hope of gauging whether the talks, which appear to be stalling, could lead to a revival of the 2015 nuclear agreement. 

Negotiations ended last Friday on a pessimistic note, with European diplomats saying Tehran had backtracked on previous compromises it made earlier this year to smooth the way for the current round of negotiations.

France's top diplomat, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday that the present environment wasn't "very encouraging". 

"We have the feeling the Iranians want to make it last and the longer the talks last, the more they go back on their commitments... and get closer to capacity to get a nuclear weapon," he told a French parliamentary committee.

Western officials have criticised Tehran for presenting "unrealistic" demands after it called on all US and European sanctions imposed since 2017 - including those unrelated to Iran's nuclear programme - to be lifted.

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An Iranian source close to the government told MEE that the non-nuclear related sanctions were a direct violation of the 2015 deal because they impeded normalisation of Iranian trade and business.

The US withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 under former President Donald Trump and imposed a series of debilitating sanctions on Iran. Since then, the country has restarted its uranium-enrichment programme, breaching commitments it made to the 2015 agreement.

Analysts and officials have increasingly cast the coming days as a "do-or-die" moment for the talks, with many cautioning that Iran is weeks away from reaching the "breakout time" it would need to produce a single nuclear weapon.

Last week, the UN atomic agency announced Iran had taken a closer step towards a nuclear weapon, using its advanced centrifuges to produce 20 percent enriched uranium at Fordow, a tightly guarded underground nuclear facility. 

In an exclusive interview with Middle East Eye, Iran's top negotiator, Bagheri Kani, said the country was under no pressure to strike a deal over its nuclear enrichment programme, adding that the ball was squarely "in America's court" to resuscitate the deal.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Iran on Friday of slow-rolling the talks. "What we've seen in the last couple of days is that Iran right now does not seem to be serious about doing what's necessary to return to compliance," he said.

The US diplomat added that, should the parties fail to reach a deal, Washington would "pursue other options". He did not present further detail.