Will E3 seize UN diplomatic momentum to revive JCPOA?

TEHRAN – Iranian President Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi arrived in New York at noon on Monday local time amid a highly charged atmosphere surrounding the talks in Vienna over reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. 

Before leaving Tehran for New York, President Raisi was keen to set the record straight regarding the possibility of negotiating and meeting with the American side. “There are no plans to negotiate or meet with the Americans during this trip, and we have no plans to meet with them,” the Iranian president said. 

But President Raisi didn’t rule out possible talks with the European leaders in New York, though no plans have so far been made in this regard. “We will have bilateral meetings with the leaders of some countries on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly,” he added. 

The list of officials accompanying Raisi indicates that he will be very much focused on foreign policy goals. And the Vienna talks have been on top of the Raisi administration’s foreign policy agenda over the last year. So, it’s not unlikely that Raisi would have some discussions on the issue. 

The Tehran Times had earlier reported that Iran’s top negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian as well as other officials in charge of the country’s foreign policy are accompanying Raisi in New York. 

All the Western stakeholders in the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will be in New York in the coming days. British Prime Minister Lizz Truss headed to New York to meet U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron. She will be joined by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Enrique Mora, the EU coordinator for the JCPOA talks, and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell are also expected to travel to New York. Press reports indicated that there will be intensive meetings between Iranian and other officials. According to these reports, Mora will meet Bagheri Kani; Borrell will meet Amir Abdollahian; and President of the European Council Charles Michel will meet Raisi. Also, Macron, a longtime JCPOA mediator, met with Raisi.  

Therefore, the stage appears to be set for breaking the ice of the Vienna talks. But whether the Europeans would seize this momentum and facilitate the conclusion of the long-running talks remains to be seen. The early remarks coming out of Europe are not encouraging. 

Borrel was keen to strike a pessimistic note ahead of the UN meetings. “For the past three months, the interaction, the multistep process was converging. The activity between the parties was improving the result. But in the last weeks, this was not the case. Now we are at a stalemate. Now we are stopped,” he told Politico. “The past proposal, the last request from the Iranian side, was not exactly pushing for an agreement and if we had to say today if something happened this week, I would say ‘I don’t think so.”

France also was keen to contribute to the bleak prospects for a breakthrough in New York. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna implied that the E3 will not table any better offer on reviving the JCPOA. “There will not be a better offer on the table and it’s up to Iran to take the right decisions,” she said. 

But Iran has said that it made all the necessary decisions to conclude the talks. Iran said the onus is now on the U.S. to come up with a response to the views submitted by Iran in response to the “final text” put out by Borrel. New York meetings, therefore, are another opportunity for the E3 and the EU to change tack and encourage the Biden administration into stepping up to the plate.


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