Russia Says 'Hope is the Last to Die' As Date Set for Next Iran Nuclear Talks

Russia's envoy in Vienna has said Moscow remains hopeful as the date for the resumption of talks geared toward reviving the United States and Iran's full participation in a 2015 nuclear deal was set for the end of this month.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri first announced via Twitter on Wednesday that he had spoken with European Union Deputy Secretary General and Political Director Enrique Mora, and that the two "agreed to start the negotiations aiming at removal of unlawful & inhumane sanctions on 29 November in Vienna."

Mora, who has been coordinating indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran, then confirmed the date had been set following consultations with all participants of the deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He confirmed that all current JCPOA parties — China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom — would be in attendance.

"Participants will continue the discussions on the prospect of a possible return of the United States to the JCPOA and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement by all sides," a statement Mora shared by the EU External Action Service read.

Russia's permanent representative to international organizations in the Austrian capital, Mikhail Ulyanov, also announced the news on Twitter, saying this "long-awaited collective decision opens the way to #US #sanctions lifting and return of #Iran to full implementation of nuclear provisions of 2015 deal."

Asked by Newsweek what Moscow's mood was going into what would be the seventh round of negotiations given recent statements from Washington and Tehran, Ulyanov shared a Russian proverb.

"In Russia we have a saying which can be translated into English as: the hope is the last to die," Ulyanov, who also serves as Moscow's governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote. "I believe it is too early to be pessimistic."

Russia, representative, Vienna, governor, IAEA, Mikhail, Ulyanov
Russia's Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mikhail Ulyanov speaks to journalists outside the "Grand Hotel Wien" after the sixth round of closed-door nuclear talks in Vienna on June 20, where diplomats of Britain, the EU, China, Russia and Iran hold their talks. Discussions have since been halted as Iran held a presidential election that saw conservatives take power. JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images

The JCPOA has been in crisis since former President Donald Trump abandoned the accord in 2018, saying it did not go far enough to restrict Iran's nuclear powers nor rein in the Islamic Republic's missile development and support for foreign militias. The other signatories of the deal continue to support it, though Iran has accused Western powers of not living up to their end of the bargain by not normalizing trade ties for fear of U.S. sanctions.

Iran has begun enriching uranium at levels beyond the caps established by the agreement, and a lack of resolution has threatened key sections of the deal that allow for IAEA inspections of Iran's nuclear sites, which Tehran has maintained were never intended to produce a nuclear weapon.

President Joe Biden has pledged to reenter the JCPOA, but has so far maintained the unilateral sanctions put in place by his predecessor until a resolution is reached in Vienna. The process began in April but was paused after a sixth round in June as Iran prepared to hold elections that ultimately saw President Ebrahim Raisi come to power in August.

Since then, both Washington and Tehran have issued statements expressing skepticism toward the other's commitments toward re-entering the agreement.

Bagheri had said last week that Iran was prepared to resume talks before the end of the month. In an interview aired Sunday by CBS News, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the development, but issued a warning as well.

"We still believe diplomacy is the best path forward for putting the nuclear program back in the box it had been in under the agreement, the so-called JCPOA," Blinken said. "But we were also looking at, as necessary, other options if Iran is not prepared to engage quickly in good faith to pick up where we left off in June when these talks were interrupted by the change in government in Iran."

Asked about potential military options, Blinken responded: Well, as we always say, every option is on the table."

The remarks were criticized as "lackluster and hackneyed" the following day by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh.

"Instead of slipping into the language and logic of hawks in the United States and falling into the trap of those who do all they can to preserve Trump's failed legacy," Khatibzadeh said during a press conference, "the U.S. had better make an effort to create a new language and logic based on respecting the rights of nations."

In response to the latest announcement, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters Wednesday that U.S. special representative for Iran Rob Malley would also participate in the upcoming Vienna talks.

And he said the Biden administration believes "it remains possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA by closing the relatively small number of issues that remained outstanding" at the end of the last round of talks.

"We believe that if the Iranians are serious, we can manage to do that in relatively short order," Price said. "But we've also been clear, including as this pause has dragged on for some time, that this window of opportunity will not be open forever and that especially if Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps. And together with the IAEA, we've expressed our concern about a number of those steps in recent days, in recent weeks."

"So we certainly hope that when the Iranian delegation returns to Vienna later this month, they do so ready to negotiate, they do so ready to negotiate quickly and in good faith as well," he added.

This is a developing news story. More information will be added as it becomes available.