China urges US to lift ‘illegal sanctions’ on Iran as talks on nuke deal resume

VIENNA: Talks on the Iran nuclear deal have resumed here in Vienna after a five-month hiatus as a Chinese representative urged the US to lift illegal sanctions on Iran and third parties in order to help with the negotiations.

Representatives of Iran, China, Russia, the UK, France and Germany convened in the Austrian capital on Monday while messages were relayed to the US representatives as Iran refused to hold direct talks with the US since the US is no longer a member of the pact signed in 2015.

The US left the pact three years ago during former president Donald Trump’s administration and had imposed more sanctions on Iran.

Chinese negotiator Wang Qun, who is also Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations, said that dialogue and negotiations are the only right way to solve the Iran nuclear issue, and the US should lift all illegal sanctions against Iran and third parties, including China.

The Iranian foreign ministry said Iran is serious about reaching a “fair agreement” that would secure Iran’s legitimate interests, Al Jazeera reported Monday. “So long as the US’ maximum pressure campaign breathes, reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is nothing more than exorbitant talk,” top Iranian negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani was quoted as saying.

Li Weijian, director of West Asian and African Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Iran’s new government has played down conflicts with neighboring countries and eased tensions with them, and has been enhancing relations with China and Russia. Improving the regional and international environment allows Tehran to better manage the situation.

The Biden administration, however, cannot return to the issue easily despite President Biden’s pledge before taking office, Li said.

The Trump administration not only left a mess with the Iran nuclear pact, but also polarized party politics, making it difficult for Biden even if he wants to take action on the topic, Li said, adding that the US diverted most of its resources to deal with China, while moving its strategic focus away from nuclear negotiations.

The European Union’s Enrique Mora, who is chairing the talks, sounded optimistic, telling reporters he felt “positive that we can be doing important things for the next weeks.”

Russia’s top negotiator, Mikhail Ulyanov, confirmed on Twitter that participants agreed on further immediate steps in the new round of talks, which “started quite successfully.”

Tehran has made clear its bottom line and requirements of lifting sanctions to return to the accord, while the international reputation and credibility of the Biden administration would further suffer if it fails to fulfill its previous pledges of returning to JCPOA negotiations, experts said.

Li pointed out that the US is building up recognition of the new Iranian government, but the low mutual trust will affect the talks.

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