Iran Ready for 'Good Agreement' U.S. Will Honor, But in 'No Rush' for Bad Deal

An Iranian official has told Newsweek that the country was prepared to enter into a nuclear agreement in which the United States lived up to the commitments it made during their initial deal six years ago.

But even as negotiations drag on into successive rounds, the Islamic Republic is not hurrying to settle for less.

"We want to arrive at a good agreement on the steps needed to be taken by the US to return to JCPOA," Shahrokh Nazemi, head of the media office at Iran's permanent mission to the United Nations, told Newsweek, using an acronym to refer to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal.

"In so doing, we are in no rush to agree on something that is imperfect," he said.

The comments came as the fifth round of indirect talks between Iran and the U.S. concluded Wednesday in the Austrian capital of Vienna, with fellow JCPOA signatories China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom serving as conduits.

The U.S. was a founding party to the 2015 agreement, but former President Donald Trump pulled out of it in 2018, instituting tough sanctions against Tehran and those doing business with it.

The U.S.-imposed economic restrictions eroded Iran's benefits as originally envisioned in the accord, and Iran has since suspended nuclear enrichment limits and has threatened to sever cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Although it has since extended a parliamentary-imposed deadline on IAEA inspections, political tensions in the country continue to mount as next month's presidential election nears. Of the seven candidates slated to potentially succeed President Hassan Rouhani, most, including frontrunner Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi, are conservatives who have expressed skepticism toward the JCPOA.

Echoing analysts with whom Newsweek recently spoke, Nazemi said the race would have no bearing on Tehran's commitments.

"The result of the presidential election in Iran has nothing to do with the ongoing talks in Vienna," Nazemi said.

He said it would be Washington's actions that determined the course of the discussions.

"The U.S.' attitude and willingness to move away from the failed policies of the past will contribute most to the success of the negotiations," Nazemi said. "There is a widespread consensus across the Iranian system on our approach towards JCPOA."

And he reiterated Iran's position that the onus was on the U.S. to make the first move, a development that would lead to Tehran reinstating its own initial commitments.

"As we have said on numerous occasions, as soon as the U.S. lifts its sanctions in accordance with its JCPOA obligations, and that is fully verified, Iran will immediately return to its JCPOA obligations," Nazemi said.

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Delegations from China, the European Union, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and the United Kingdom gather during the fourth of what's so far been five rounds of talks aiming to coordinate a U.S. reentry into the JCPOA nuclear deal at the Grand Hotel Wein in Vienna, Austria on May 19. U.S.-Iran interactions have been indirect and communications are orchestrated through other parties.

All sides have hailed some degree of headway achieved throughout the process, but as of Wednesday, a sense of uncertainty remained over certain outstanding differences.

"We have made some progress on them," top Iranian negotiator Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said during an interview with Iran's Press TV on the sidelines of the discussions. "But we are still not in a position to say that we have a clear answer for them and a clear solution, actually, for these key issues."

Despite speculation on the fifth round of talks potentially being the last, Araghchi said he was "not confident that we would be able to conclude the negotiations" this time around, but "there is the possibility."

Back in Tehran, Rouhani struck a more positive tone in describing the pace of negotiations during a cabinet meeting.

"Our negotiators are negotiating very decisively, firmly and carefully in Vienna, and their progress is remarkable," Rouhani said, noting that the principles outlined as policy by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "are always in the minds of the negotiators in Vienna."

The outgoing Iranian president credited his administration for having pioneered the JCPOA, and said he was ready to reinvigorate the deal.

"The JCPOA is one of the most important international agreements and a very important framework for cooperation, interaction and security of our country, region and world," Rouhani said. "I am proud that the Twelfth Government has fulfilled its promise to the people and today everything is ready for an agreement."

From Washington's perspective, Tehran was responsible for the impasse. If the two were on the verge of reaching a solution, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday "that would be news to us."

"I think we've clarified increasingly what each side would need to do to come back into compliance with the JCPOA, but it remains an unanswered question whether Iran is actually prepared to do what it needs to do to come back into compliance," Blinken told Israel's Channel 12. "The jury is still out on that."

Like the Iranian side, however, President Joe Biden's administration argues that it was his predecessor who sparked the current crisis with the unilateral exit from the JCPOA. U.S. officials have repeatedly referred to Trump's so-called "maximum pressure" campaign as a failed strategy mounted against Iran as it was adhering to the deal.

"Here's what happened since. Now that we're out of the deal, Iran has started to ignore the constraints that the deal imposed," Blinken said. "And it is closer and closer and closer to being able to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon on very short order. And so far from getting less dangerous without the deal, it's gotten more dangerous."

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses a cabinet meeting on May 26 in Tehran. Echoing Iranian officials and analysts with whom Newsweek recently spoke, the leader emphasized that his country's commitment to the JCPOA was not contingent on the results of the upcoming elections that would conclude his second and final term in office. Presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Iran has always denied seeking a nuclear weapon. Still, the country's leadership has warned it would continue to step back from the JCPOA if promised incentives such as normalized trade ties with the West were not realized.

Russia's envoy, permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov, said Wednesday on Twitter that efforts were continuing to smooth over diverging views to achieve a common goal.

"The delegations at the Vienna talks often have different views on topics under discussion, but all of them share unity of purpose which is to bring the talks to a successful conclusion," Ulyanov said. "To this end they look for solutions acceptable to all."

EU delegation to Vienna press attaché Alain Georges Matton said this search would continue.

"Experts will continue the discussions in the working groups," Matton told reporters outside the Grand Hotel Wien, where the negotiations were taking place. "In the meantime, the European Union, as coordinator, will continue the talks with all the participants of the JCPOA and separately with the United States in view of finding common grounds for an agreement to take shape."