Serious differences persist between the United States and Iran over how they might resume compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal despite making some progress in their latest indirect talks in Vienna, a senior US State Department official said Wednesday.

The talks were likely to require several rounds, their outcome remained uncertain, and they were not near a conclusion, the official told reporters in a conference call.

The main differences are over what sanctions the US will need to remove and what steps Iran will need to take to resume its obligations to curb its nuclear program, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“There still are disagreements and, in some cases, pretty important ones,” he said. “We are not near the conclusion of these negotiations. The outcome is still uncertain. We have made some progress.”

Earlier, the European parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action said they had seen progress in the first two rounds of indirect US-Iran talks, but there were still major hurdles.

Iran and world powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia – have been meeting in Vienna to hammer out steps that would be needed if the agreement, which was abandoned by former US President Donald Trump in 2018, is to be revived.

The talks will resume next week. A US delegation is in a separate location in Vienna, enabling representatives of the five powers to shuttle between both sides because Iran rejected direct talks.

The central issues are which US sanctions imposed by Trump since withdrawing would need to be removed and what steps the Islamist republic would have to take to rein it its subsequent breaches of the pact’s curbs on its uranium enrichment capacity.

In the latest example of such breaches, Iran has installed extra advanced centrifuges at its underground uranium enrichment plant at Natanz that was hit by a blast last week, a report by the UN atomic watchdog showed.

The Wall Street Journal cited two people familiar with the matter as saying Washington was open to easing terrorism sanctions against Iran’s central bank, its national oil and tanker companies, and key sectors, including steel and aluminum.

Analysts have said it is inevitable the US would have to ease some of its terrorism-related sanctions if there is to be a revival of the deal because, without this, Iran would be unable to resume exporting oil.

The ayatollah regime also demands that the US remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps from its list of designated terrorist groups. The IRGC was designated as such by Trump in 2019. Analysts have said it is inevitable that Washington would have to ease some of its terrorism-related sanctions if there is to be a revival of the deal because, without this, Iran would be unable to resume exporting oil.

The newspaper cited one senior European official as saying that Washington has also signaled potential sanctions relief for sectors including textiles, autos, shipping, and insurance.

European officials said they hope to have something concrete in hand by mid-May, before a monitoring agreement between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog expires later that month and ahead of the June 18 Iranian elections.

The US official said he would not rule out the possibility if enough progress were made, but stressed that Washington would not rush to meet a deadline.

At the same time, members of the Republican Study Committee, with the backing of 83 House Republicans, introduced a new legislation Wednesday to prevent the removal of sanctions on the ayatollah regime as long as it does not meet the 12 demands laid out by the Trump administration presented when it withdrew from the JCPOA.

If passed, the bill will limit President Joe Biden from removing the sanctions and any future deal with Tehran would need to first be approved by the Senate.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who outlined the original 12 demands, attended the press conference announcing the bill.

Meanwhile, in addition to repairing relations with the US, news agencies reported that Iran would also hold another round of meetings with Saudi Arabia in a bid to revive diplomatic ties with its regional rival.

The first round of direct talks between the two took place earlier this month and signaled a possible de-escalation following years of animosity that often spilled into neighboring countries and at least one still-raging war.

Source » israelhayom