Iran Atomic Talks Enter Decisive Round as Oil Trade at Stake
(Bloomberg) -- World powers started their fifth round of negotiations to revive a landmark agreement that will reinstate caps on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the country’s return to oil markets and the global economy.
The talks in Vienna are being closely watched by energy traders trying to measure when the Persian Gulf nation -- which holds the world’s fourth biggest oil and second biggest natural gas reserves -- could resume exports. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani won backing from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Monday, with the two leaders agreeing to deepen trade and energy links once a return to the 2015 accord is finalized.
“We’re optimistic that differences over some small details and operational affairs will be resolved in the not so distant days ahead,” Ali Rabiei, spokesman for the Iranian government, said Tuesday in Tehran. U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley struck a more cautious note before departing for the talks that are in their seventh week.
European diplomats originally sought to seal a return to the accord last week, however, the extension of a key monitoring pact between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran won an additional month to negotiate. After former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal three years ago and unilaterally reimposed sanctions, Iran began to add nuclear capacities beyond those allowed under the agreement.
“This is an important outcome for China and the European Union,” Beijing’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Tuesday during a discussion at a Munich Security Conference event. “We are working hard to uphold this agreement and the authority of the UN Security Council resolution and stability in the Middle East.”
But at a meeting in Jerusalem with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Washington not to rejoin the accord.
“We believe that that deal paves the way for Iran to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons with international legitimacy,” Netanyahu said. Blinken said the U.S. serious about ensuring Israel’s security and pledged to keep the government apprised of developments in the negotiations with Iran.
Iran’s top nuclear official, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Monday that his country has more than 90 kilograms (198 pounds) of uranium enriched to 20% and 2.5 kilograms of material enriched to 60% purity, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. Since the U.S. withdrew from the deal, Iran has increased its stockpile of material that could be used for a weapon more than 15-fold
Diplomats are still wrangling over U.S. sanctions and Iran’s advanced enrichment technologies, according to officials involved in the talks who asked not to be identified in line with diplomatic rules. Some Iranian entities are sanctioned under multiple U.S. enforcement mechanisms, requiring diplomats to parse sanctions lists and review each case on an individual basis, the people said.
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