Nuclear meeting hits a roadblock - GulfToday

Nuclear meeting hits a roadblock


Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani in Vienna, Austria. Reuters

The meeting at Vienna between Iran and the European powers also known as E-3, comprising France, Germany, and Britain, came to a halt. It is being termed a ‘pause’, an indication that the talks will resume. But the European diplomats have expressed disappointment with the proposals that Iran brought to the table.

They said, ‘Tehran is walking back almost all of the difficult compromises crafted after many months of hard work.’ Head of the Iranian delegation Ali Bagheri said, ‘I told them it’s normal that we’re not presenting documents and suggestions which correspond to your points of view.’ The latest round of talks comes after June when the Iranians halted or ‘paused’ them.

The attempt is to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, where Iran would curb its nuclear programmes which involved enriching uranium, which in turn enables the making of an atomic weapon.

The 2015 pact was between Iran and the United States, China, Russia, France, Germany, and Britain, known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement when he became president in 2016. The talks have been revived after Joe Biden became president this January.

Israel has adopted a hardline status because it believes that the potential Iranian atomic bomb is a huge threat. Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had asked US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to end the talks and described Iran’s stance as ‘nuclear blackmail.’ Blinken said it was ‘not too late for Iran to reverse course’ and that it could not ‘sustain the status quo of building their nuclear programme while dragging their feet on talks.’

Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Abdollahian sounded optimistic when he told the top European Union (EU) diplomat, Josep Borrell, that talks were progressing ‘but slowly on all tracks.’ He also said, ‘We think that a good agreement is possible but that requires a change of approach by certain parties who must drop their threatening language and opt for texts focused on cooperation, mutual respect and cooperation.’

Israel is not being very helpful in adopting a hardened stance, and the US must stop reflecting Israeli concerns exclusively. It seems that the US is representing the absent Israel at the talks. Perhaps it would be better if Israel is brought but Israel and its leaders will have to change their attitude towards Iran, even as Iran must end its ideological opposition to Israel. It would be futile for Iran and Israel to pretend that they have nothing to do with each other.

It is true that the Arab neighbours are as much concerned about the militarisation of Iran’s nuclear programme. But the Arab countries as well as Iran are willing to talk to each other about it. Israel and Iran must adopt similar approach to each other. The shadowboxing between the two must end.

Even as Iran has to change its attitude towards Israel, Israel has to change its hostile attitude towards the Palestinian state. It cannot sidestep the issue because the Arab and European powers are concerned about the growing military power of Iran which will create a security disequilibrium in the region. The hardliners must be reined in Gaza, but Israel must implement without further tardiness the Oslo Accords of 1994 and dismantle the West Bank settlements it has set up in territory it has occupied in the 1967 war.

Peace is not a piecemeal affair. It must be comprehensive. Iran has nothing to do with the Palestinian issue. If Israel keeps to its treaty obligations with Palestine, it will be easier for everyone else involved to pressurise Iran.

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