Iran Nuke Deal Talks Were Paused Due to US Seizing Tankers With 'Iranian' Oil, Media Claims
© AP Photo / Florian SchroetterFILE - The flag of Iran waves in front of the the International Center building with the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, in Vienna, AustriaI, May 24, 2021. On Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, negotiators are gathering in Vienna to resume efforts to revive Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, with hopes of quick progress muted after the arrival of a hard-line new government in Tehran led to a more than five-month hiatus. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter, FILE)
© AP Photo / Florian Schroetter
On 11 March, representatives of Iran and the EU announced that the talks on reviving the nuclear deal, which had been close to completion, had been put on hold. The EU's head of diplomacy, Josep Borrell cited "external factors" as the cause for the hiccup.
The decision by US authorities to seize two Greek ships carrying "Iranian oil" was among the reasons for a pause in negotiations on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Middle East Eye (MEE) has reported. Tehran repeatedly warned Washington against seizing the two Greek ships in Houston and the Bahamas during the ongoing talks in Vienna, but these calls went unheeded, MEE reported without revealing its sources.
The two ships carrying $38 million worth of alleged Iranian crude were seized on 10 March, a day prior to the suspension of the JCPOA talks, on the grounds of breaking the US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Yet, the seizure of the tankers was reportedly not the only issue that derailed the nuclear talks that were approaching conclusion and the signing of a new accord that would revive the JCPOA. According to MEE, the US made new unspecified demands as part of the new deal that "angered" Tehran.
Washington has also been refusing to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the list of foreign terrorist organisations, where it was placed under the Trump administration.
"Ninety-nine percent is already agreed, but that remaining one percent is of high quality. You may manage to agree on the balance of issues, but some thorny issues remain that require right decisions. No one can accuse Iran of being intransigent", an unnamed Iranian delegate at the Vienna talks commented on the progress of negotiations in an interview with the Middle East Eye.
The negotiations were also hindered on 8 March by Russia's demand for the US to provide written guarantees that its sanctions policy against Moscow won't affect its trade with Iran. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained that under the original nuclear accord all participants of the JCPOA are supposed to receive "equal rights" in developing cooperation with Iran. Russia is one of the signatories of the original 2015 nuclear accord.
MEE suggested that the provision requested by Moscow is also imported for Tehran – the two economies are intertwined and Iran might fear it will prevent US companies from entering the Iranian market out of fear of sanctions.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the US refused to negotiate the sanctions waivers for Russia in trade with Iran, but are contemplating an alternative nuclear deal that would not include Moscow as a signatory.
Iranian and EU representatives to the talks announced a pause in negotiations on 11 March. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that "external factors" prompted this decision, but did not elaborate on them.
The talks to revive the JCPOA have been going on with intermittent breaks for around a year now, but have had little success until recently. The breakthrough came amid the rapid growth of gas and oil prices on global markets, largely prompted by the Western sanctions against Russia over the situation in Ukraine. The negotiations are aimed at returning the US and Iran to compliance with the 2015 nuclear accord.
Tehran stopped adhering to its provisions a year after the US under the Trump administration announced its withdrawal from the JCPOA and reintroduction of sanctions against Iran. The move crippled the country's oil trade and forced most Western companies to abandon their business in the Islamic Republic despite considerable financial losses associated with it.
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