Iran Nuclear Talks Set to Resume in Vienna

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Negotiators from the US and Iran are scheduled to return to Vienna this week for a third round of nuclear-related discussions that could eventually lead to a surge in Iranian oil exports (IOD Apr.20'21). At issue are limits on Iran's nuclear program under the 2015 agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and what specific sanctions the US will lift in return for Iran returning to compliance. Representatives from the US and Iran have said the first two rounds of indirect talks led to some progress. Resumption of the talks this week follows a possible attack on an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Syria (related). Whether the two sides can eventually hammer out an agreement remains largely a political question about whether Iran will accept the sanctions relief the US is willing to provide. "The United States has a better idea of what it will need to do to come back into full compliance with the JCPOA, and Iran has a better idea of what it will need to do," a senior State Department official said last week. However, he cautioned that "clarification doesn't necessarily mean consensus (OD Apr.21'21)." Biden's Dilemma The US has pledged that it will offer sanctions relief in line with what Iran was afforded in the original agreement. That includes lifting sanctions, which have stymied Iran's exports of crude oil and refined products. That is a complex issue, however. Washington levied a series of sanctions on Tehran as part of former US President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign both before and after he pulled the US out of the agreement in 2018. Some of those -- such as terrorism sanctions levied against the Central Bank of Iran, National Iranian Tanker Co. and National Iranian Oil Co. -- can make it difficult for Iran to export oil but may be too politically sensitive for the Biden administration to repeal outright. "There remains a long road ahead of us," US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday. Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said on Sunday that Iran wants "verification" of US sanctions relief as a condition for halting high levels of uranium enrichment and other nuclear-related activities outside the scope of the JCPOA, according to Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency. The US official said it remains unclear what Iranian officials mean by verification. The EU's High Representative Josep Borrell said on Monday that representatives from the EU, China, Germany, Russia, the UK and Iran will meet in Vienna on Tuesday. US negotiators are also scheduled to return to Vienna, but negotiations with Iran have been conducted through intermediaries so far. Emily Meredith, Washington

Oil Supply, Security Risk , Sanctions
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