Though Vienna talks resume amid complications raised by Iran FM's accusation that Russia tried to scupper the pact, Moscow representative Ulyanov says all parties are led "by unity of purpose which is full restoration of nuclear deal."

Iranian diplomat Abbas Araghchi leaves the hotel ahead of the meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission, in Vienna on April 27, 2021.
Iranian diplomat Abbas Araghchi leaves the hotel ahead of the meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission, in Vienna on April 27, 2021. (Reuters)

The parties negotiating a revival of the Iran nuclear deal have agreed to speed up efforts to bring the United States and Iran back into compliance, diplomats said.

Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia began a third round of meetings in Vienna on Tuesday to agree steps that would be needed if the 2015 agreement, which was abandoned by US in 2018, is to be revived.

The main differences are over what sanctions the United States will need to remove, what steps Iran will need to take to resume its obligations to curb its nuclear programme, and how to sequence this process to satisfy both sides.

"The discussions proved that participants are guided by the unity of purpose which is full restoration of the nuclear deal in its original form," Mikhail Ulyanov, Moscow's ambassador to the UN atomic watchdog, said on Twitter after senior diplomats met in the Austrian capital.

"It was decided to expedite the process."

The meeting comes as comments surfaced from the Iranian foreign minister alleging that Russia once tried to scupper the pact.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has thus far refused to comment on the remarks from Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, made in a seven-hour interview with a think tank associated with the Iranian presidency that leaked over the weekend.

Russia's Ulyanov, who has outwardly been one of the most optimistic about the possibility of getting Tehran and Washington to agree to terms for the US to rejoin the 2015 deal, also made no mention of the allegations before the meetings on Tuesday, saying in a tweet only that "the participants will continue negotiations on restoration of the nuclear deal."

READ MORE: Envoys to Iran nuclear talks hail 'progress' in Vienna

Indirect talks 

The US is not at the table because it unilaterally pulled out of the deal in 2018 under then president Donald Trump, who restored and augmented American sanctions in a campaign of "maximum pressure" to try and force Iran into renegotiating the pact with more concessions. 

President Joe Biden wants to rejoin the deal, however, and there is a US delegation in Vienna taking part in indirect talks with Iran, with diplomats from the other world powers acting as go-betweens.

The deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme. 

The reimposition of American sanctions has left the country's economy reeling, and Tehran has reacted by steadily increasing its violations of the restrictions of the deal, such as increasing the purity of uranium it enriches and its stockpiles, in a thus-far unsuccessful effort to pressure the other countries to provide relief.

READ MORE: Iran: Natanz sabotage could hurt Vienna nuclear deal talks

Complicating Vienna talks

The ultimate goal of the deal is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, something it insists it doesn’t want to do. Iran now has enough enriched uranium to make a bomb, but nowhere near the amount it had before the nuclear deal was signed.

The comments from Zarif, who himself helped negotiate the original 2015 nuclear deal, have the potential to complicate the Vienna talks, which are currently focused on how the US would roll back its sanctions — and which ones — and how Iran would return to compliance.

In the interview, reviewed by The Associated Press, Zarif describes Russia as wanting to stop the nuclear deal before it was struck under the Obama administration in 2015, suggesting Moscow wanted to keep Iran at odds with the West.

Iran's Foreign Ministry has called the leak of the recording "illegal," but hasn't disputed its authenticity.

Iran-Israel rift 

The Vienna talks began in early April, and there have been several rounds of high-level discussions, while expert groups have been working on proposals on how to resolve the issues around American sanctions and Iranian compliance, as well as the "possible sequencing" of the US return.

The comments from Zarif are just the latest complication that the diplomats have to deal with.

Among other things, an attack suspected to have been carried out by Israel recently struck Iran's Natanz nuclear site, causing an unknown amount of damage.

Tehran retaliated by beginning to enrich a small amount of uranium up to 60 percent purity, its highest level ever. 

READ MORE: Iran's Zarif complains about Revolutionary Guard in leaked recording

Source: AP