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The New Arab Staff

'Interim deal could be reached' with Iran nuclear talks, officials say

Iran and the US have returned home for consolations [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 April, 2021

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The nuclear talks in Vienna could produce an interim deal, allowing for more time for further expansive talks.

Iranian officials say progress has been achieved at recent talks in Vienna aimed at restarting the Iran nuclear deal and that an interim deal is within reach, according to reports by Reuters.

"We are on the right track and some progress has been made, but this does not mean that the talks in Vienna have reached the final stage," said Saeed Khatibzadeh, foreign ministry spokesman, at a weekly press conference in Tehran. 

The talks are aimed at reducing Iranian nuclear activity and see Tehran return to compliance with the original 2015 deal.

Iran has been calling on the US to lift sanctions imposed after the previous Trump administration left the deal in 2018. 

Washington has been vocal in its desire to return to the deal and see Iran fall back into compliance but Tehran insists that it will not reduce its nuclear activity unless US sanctions are first lifted.

According to diplomats who spoke to Reuters, there is hope that an interim deal between the two sides could be reached allowing for further talks in the future.

"The May deadline is approaching... What is being discussed in Vienna for the near term is the main outlines of an interim deal to give all sides more time to resolve complicated technical issues," said one Iranian official.

Iran's parliament has previously passed a law that stated the nation would harden its nuclear stance in May if sanctions were not lifted. 

Ideas of an interim deal were rebutted by Abbas Araqchi, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, who told state media "there is no discussion on an interim agreement or similar topics in the Vienna talks".

But he also added that Iranian enrichment to 20 percent could be suspended if a political agreement was reached on the technical steps to remove all sanctions and blocked Iranian funds in other countries were released.

"Unblocking Iran's funds is a good start. An interim deal will give us time to work on removal of all sanctions on Iran," commented a second Iranian official to Reuters

Read more: How America's 'maximum pressure' on Iran made China a winner

One US official who spoke to the news agency said they have "been exploring concrete approaches concerning the steps both Iran and the US would need to take to return to mutual compliance".

"The discussions have been thorough and thoughtful, if indirect... There have been no breakthroughs, but we did not expect this process to be easy or quick," the added.

The EU, which is overseeing the talks, was pleased with the recent progress and the apparent willingness of both sides to secure a deal. 

"I think that both parties are really interested in reaching an agreement, and they have been moving from general to more focused issues, which are clearly, on one side sanction-lifting, and on the other side, nuclear implementation issues," said Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs.

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