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April 19, 2021 4:08 pm

Iran Nuclear Talks in Vienna Reach ‘Drafting Stage’ as Israeli Officials Worry US Pushing Deal at ‘All Costs’

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora and Iranian Deputy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria April 6, 2021. EU Delegation in Vienna/Handout via REUTERS

Talks between Iran and the world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear accord have reached a “drafting stage,” according to a Russian official Monday, as Israeli military intelligence officials raised concerns that the US is determined to hammer out a deal “at all costs.”

According to Russia’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mikhail Ulyanov, the deliberations in the past two weeks on the restoration of Iran’s nuclear program, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), have “entered the drafting stage.” US President Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, abandoned the nuclear deal in 2018 and instead imposed heavy sanctions.

“The Russian and the US delegations at the Vienna talks held useful bilateral consultations on issues related to US sanctions lifting and return of Iran to full compliance with its nuclear commitments under JCPOA,” Ulyanov said in a statement on Twitter. “Practical solutions are still far away, but we have moved from general words to agreeing on specific steps towards the goal.”

Commenting on the Vienna negotiations on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters in Tehran, “We are on the right track and some progress has been made, but this does not mean that the talks in Vienna have reached the final stage.”

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Meanwhile, Israel’s security-diplomatic cabinet met on Sunday for the first time in two months to discuss the Iranian threat, the country’s alleged involvement in a blast in Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Natanz last week, and the ongoing talks between Iran and the Biden administration.

“It is not a situation in which the Americans want to stand their ground. They’re giving up more than the Iranians are asking for. Their goal is racing towards an agreement at all costs,” Israeli senior officials told Israeli outlet Ynet. “The Iranians know that the deal will be signed no matter what, so they are doing the most to maximize their gains. The Americans hear our concerns, but the question is whether they are even listening. It’s not clear whether we’re heading towards an escalation with Iran.”

Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan told Channel 12 that with a “return to this agreement, Iran will have the legal permission to have thousands of centrifuges, bringing it closer to the ability to have a nuclear weapon.”

The participants in the Vienna talks are scheduled to reconvene on April 20 to take stock of the work done by expert-level working groups and consider next steps, Ulyanov said.

On Monday, the IAEA started separate talks with Iran over traces of uranium found at undeclared sites in the country, for what the international agency called “a focused process aimed at clarifying outstanding safeguards issues.”

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