Iran set to return to nuclear talks in November

Announcement comes after US warned efforts to revive deal were in 'critical phase.'

Iran set to return to nuclear talks in November

VIENNA — Iran is ready to return to nuclear talks in Vienna before the end of November, Ali Bagheri Kani, the country’s deputy foreign minister, said on Wednesday after meeting with EU officials in Brussels.

“Had a very serious & constructive dialogue with @enriquemora_ on the essential elements for successful negotiations,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to Enrique Mora, the chief EU coordinator for the talks. “We agree to start negotiations before the end of November. Exact date would be announced in the course of the next week,” he added. 

Mora did not immediately confirm the statement but two Western diplomatic officials said Bagheri Kani’s announcement was correct.

The development paves the way for a resumption of talks between Iran and six world powers aimed at reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the Iran nuclear deal is officially called. Negotiations have been stalled since June, when Iran elected hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi to the presidency.

Iran had repeatedly stressed that it was ready to resume talks “soon” but refused to provide a clear date, leaving U.S. and European officials increasingly impatient and irritated.

“We could understand some hiatus to their transition … but at this point, it’s hard to find an explanation, an innocent explanation, for why they are taking so long,” U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley told reporters in a press call earlier this week. He added that efforts to revive the accord were in a “critical phase.”

The uncertainty led to talk about a “Plan B” — what to do in case Iran does not come back to the table, given the fast acceleration of Tehran’s nuclear program and its acquisition of scientific knowledge about uranium enrichment that experts believe is irreversible.

In a research note on Wednesday, political risk consultancy Eurasia Group said that despite Iran’s readiness to resume talks in November, “a revival of the Iran nuclear agreement is unlikely next year, as Iran’s rapid nuclear buildup and maximalist demands will probably render irrelevant the 2015 agreement.”

It added that “the chances of reaching a compromise are very limited given the Iranian government’s hardline stances and internal divisions, as well as greater demands from the West for new restrictions in response to Iran’s nuclear progress.”

On this point, Malley said that all of the interlocutors he had met in recent weeks, “shared deep and growing concern about the pace and direction of Iran’s nuclear progress, particularly at a time when the U.S. has made clear that it is prepared to come back into compliance with the JCPOA.”

Iran, for its part, continues to insist that its nuclear program is peaceful and that it has no intention of building an atomic weapon.

Comments by Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on Wednesday further dampened expectations of an easy return to the nuclear agreement. He indicated that Tehran may not be prepared to pick up the talks from where they left off in June and repeated an Iranian demand for the release of its frozen assets in foreign banks worth billions of dollars.

The pessimism is a change in tone from earlier this year, when European powers, Russia, China and the EU all mediated indirect talks between Iran and the U.S. during six rounds of discussions in Vienna. Both sides made progress on a step-by-step plan that envisaged Iran reducing its nuclear program in return for U.S. sanctions relief.

A resumption of talks in November could coincide with a planned meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog in charge of monitoring Iran’s nuclear sites. The 35-member board has to decide whether to censure Tehran over its continued refusal to allow IAEA inspectors into certain nuclear sites in Iran. Iran may calculate that a return to talks in Vienna could forestall such a resolution.

Most recently, Iran turned away inspectors at the end of September despite an agreement between Tehran and IAEA Director-General Raphael Grossi over accessing its sites. The inspectors were trying to replace surveillance equipment at the Karaj centrifuge assembly facility that was the target of an alleged sabotage incident in June.

To date, it is still unclear whether IAEA inspectors have managed to access the Karaj site.

Source : Politico EU More   

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Taiwanese minister’s covert trip to Brussels adds to EU-China tensions

Joseph Wu has also infuriated Beijing with his trip to the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Taiwanese minister’s covert trip to Brussels adds to EU-China tensions

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu is planning an undisclosed visit to Brussels this week as part of a European tour that is ramping up tensions between the EU and Beijing.

Wu visited the Czech Republic and Slovakia at the beginning of the week and organizers of an anti-China protest in Rome expect him to travel to Italy on Friday to take part in a demonstration on the sidelines of a summit of leaders from the G20 group of leading economies. To add insult to injury in Beijing, this charm offensive from Taipei in Europe comes only days after U.S. President Joe Biden stressed his commitment to guaranteeing the security of the self-ruling island that China regards as its territory.

While the Czech and Slovak legs of the journey were well publicized, Wu’s visit to Brussels is being kept hush-hush and it is not immediately clear which officials he will meet. Reinhard Bütikofer, chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with China, told POLITICO he had received confirmation of Wu’s visit.

An EU spokesperson said only that she was “aware of the visit,” and insisted that the meeting would be “non-political” — a hint that he would not meet political appointees, such as EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

“We do engage with Taiwan even in the absence of diplomatic recognition,” the spokesperson added.

The Chinese mission to the EU has not replied to a request for comment.

The Taiwanese delegation visiting Prague secured five memorandums of understanding on topics ranging from cybersecurity to green technology, but Beijing slammed the visits to the Czech Republic and Slovakia starting on Monday as “promoting secessionism.” China does not accept that Taiwan is a separate country, so resents its attempts to build up a strong diplomatic profile. Beijing deplored the Czech senate’s invitation to Wu as a “malicious provocative act.”

If the flying visit to Brussels were not incendiary enough in Beijing’s eyes, the move that is likely to bring China to a boiling point is the expected detour to Rome to join protesters in the Italian capital. Organizers of the protest expect Wu to take part, but Taiwanese officials are not confirming that he will make such a provocative step.

If he went, that would create the very rare scenario of Wu being in the same city, at around the same time, as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Beijing is watching Wu’s trip closely. Commenting on his leg in Prague, where Wu was invited by Czech Senate President Miloš Vystrčil, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “China deplores and rejects the malicious provocative act by the Senate of the parliament of the Czech Republic and the individuals concerned. We have lodged solemn representations with the Czech side and will make legitimate and necessary reactions.”

China is also threatening to “react further” should European Parliament lawmakers press ahead with a plan to travel to Taiwan. Seven MEPs led by France’s Raphaël Glucksmann — a member of the Socialists & Democrats group and vocal critic of Beijing’s human rights record — are reportedly set to visit Taipei next week, according to the South China Morning Post.

“The European Parliament is an official body of the EU. If its committee sends MEPs to visit Taiwan, that would seriously violate the EU’s commitment to the One-China policy, damage China’s core interest and undermine the healthy development of China-EU relations. We will make further reactions in accordance with the development of the situation,” the Chinese Mission to the EU said in a series of tweets.

Beijing has not specified what this reaction would be, but the European Parliament has already experienced Chinese anger. In March, Beijing imposed sanctions on five MEPs and the European Parliament’s committee on human rights, after all 27 EU countries endorsed sanctions against several Chinese officials involved in the mass incarceration of Uyghurs in the region of Xinjiang.

Glucksmann’s office said he could not “comment at the moment.” Parliamentary assistants with knowledge of the trip said information would only be shared later.

In recent weeks, the White House has projected the message that the U.S. commitment to Taiwan is “rock solid” as tensions rise between the country and China. Earlier this month, China sent dozens of warplanes over Taiwan’s air defense zone. Taiwan has condemned the incursions as part of Beijing’s increasing military harassment.

The military tensions also caught the EU’s attention. Last week, foreign policy chief Borrell sharply ramped up the EU’s rhetoric on Taiwan by saying China’s threats to the self-ruling island “may have a direct impact on European security” — partly because Taipei’s microchips are “indispensable” to Europe’s digital development.

Barbara Moens contributed reporting.

Source : Politico EU More   

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