The second day of the Vienna nuclear talks between Iran and several world powers has so far proceeded more quietly than the opener.
Instead of the high-level, three-hour meeting on Monday, diplomatic working groups have started on Tuesday and are set to continue on Wednesday.
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Publicly, however, the treaty partners still appear to disagree about what to talk about during these working groups. That's despite the mood after Monday's meeting being optimistic and in some cases almost euphoric.
According to the EU, which is organizing this seventh round of talks, Tuesday's working group will be about the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Iran and Wednesday's working group will deal with Iran's nuclear program, which currently far exceeds the limits set in 2015 by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – as the Iran Nuclear Deal is also called.
Iran's Foreign Ministry saw it differently. "What's happening in Vienna is focused on lifting the sanctions," said spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, as quoted by the news agencies IRNA and TASS on Tuesday.
"We won't agree to anything less and won't undertake obligations beyond what is specified in the JCPOA."
During the talks, Iran would be unwilling to consider a new nuclear agreement or returning to the previous deal in a gradual manner, the diplomat said.
Similar tough and demanding words came from Iran's Chief Negotiator Ali Bagheri, for whom everything established in the previous rounds of talks could now be renegotiated.
Iran is obviously trying to play its cards as best it can, to get the most with the least concessions through hardline tactics. But is Tehran also prepared to scale down its nuclear program, or are the warnings from Israel correct – that the Iranians are not prepared to make any concessions at all?
Iran is not yet ready to negotiate directly with the U.S. at the same table, because Washington unilaterally abandoned the Nuclear Deal in 2018 – a decision made by the Trump administration.
The other world powers still involved – China, Russia, the UK, France, Germany as well as the EU – are acting as mediators and trying to save the pact.
On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, highlighting that the return to dialogue regarding the nuclear talks in Vienna is "an important step."
The positive consequences of a Middle East free of nuclear weapons would extend beyond nuclear control. "It will strengthen the international bans on chemical and biological weapons. It will build trust, reduce tensions and prevent conflicts and human suffering," Guterres argued.
Cover picture: Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani leaves after a meeting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna, Austria, November 29, 2021. Reuters/Lisi Niesner